our continuing series on impression management:
Body language is how we communicate when we use our bodies rather than our words to send the message. We all communicate continuously with our bodies. You might say we’re all fluent in the body language. The problem is we aren’t always aware of what we’re saying.
When you can become more aware of body language, both your own and the body language of the interviewer, you’ll have a great advantage over other job candidates who aren’t so in tune.
So what do we know about body language?
Body language is primitive. It predates human speech. Long before we were able to tell each other what we wanted, we were pointing and grunting to get our point across.
In your personal development, body language preceded speech. You were pointing and gesturing before you were using your words. The next time you’re around small children who aren’t yet verbal, notice how well they manage to express their needs and wants using only body language. Body language is our first language.
You are always, always are sending messages with your body language. It’s impossible not to communicate in that way and those around you are constantly reading the messages you send.
But it’s also true that you’re not always aware of the messages you’re sending. Because body language is often subconscious, it tends to fly under the radar. You’ll often send messages with your body that might not want to put into words. This makes it a very reliable source of information.
The four major ways we communicate using our bodies include:
§ Facial expression
According to Lillian D. Bjorseth, author of What Actions Say About You “…body language conveys more than half of any message in a face-to-face encounter…” This means your body language is going to have a major impact on whether you’ll get the job. Yes, an interviewer is going to look at your resume, your experience, and your qualifications. But if they don’t like what your body language is telling them you’re not going to get the job regardless of how well qualified you are.
Your chance to make a great impression starts when you walk into the interview. How you walk says a lot about your energy and confidence. Develop a stride that is energized and sure. Avoid a stride that might make an interviewer doubt your abilities. For example, don’t:
§ Walk too slowly
§ Walk too quickly
§ Walk with a heavy, flat foot
§ Drag your feet
§ Take tiny steps
§ Take overly large steps
Do walk briskly with a little spring in your stride. This will make you look competent and purposeful.
Your posture speaks loudly and good posture can sometimes be enough to help you get the job. According to Dr. Tim Langley, “There are many ways an employer…will decide how you fit into their plans. If the only difference between the two candidates is that one has poor posture and the other looks like a Marine, who wins? The Marine always wins.” Your Mama was Right, Posture Matters!
So what was it you mother told you? In case you’ve forgotten, here are the basic elements that make for good posture.
§ Stand up straight
§ Stomach in
§ Chest out
§ Shoulders back
§ Head up
§ Feet placed six to eight inches apart
§ One foot slightly in front of the other
§ Weight evenly distributed
§ Ears, shoulders and ankles aligned
§ Stance balanced and relaxed
This is the posture that will get you noticed every time. It sends all the right messages. Don’t forget that posture is just as important whether you’re standing or seated.
Facial expressions are responsible for much of what you communicate through body language. During an interview especially, make sure your facial expressions support a positive message.
Positive facial expressions begin with a warm and sincere smile. When you smile often, you communicate warm, enthusiasm, pleasure, interest, and a sense of connection. It’s a great way to say, “I’d make a great addition to your team.”
The likeability factor can’t be overestimated. The interviewer is going to hire someone they like and a great smile is an easy way to instantly boost your likeability. Susan Bixler and Lisa Scherrer Dugan writing in 5 Steps to Professional Presence say, “A smile is one of the most important business tools we have, and the one we most frequently forget to use.” So don’t forget to use your smile, especially during an interview!
We mentioned eye contact earlier when talking about your handshake but eye contact is so important it deserves another look. Nothing will make an interviewer doubt your suitability for the job quicker than poor eye contact. Talking to someone who can’t maintain good eye contact is actually uncomfortable.
Poor eye contact sends multiple messages and all of them are negative. Poor eye contact can suggest to the interview that you really don’t care if you get the job; that you’re bored, shy, unsure of yourself, nervous or even dishonest.
What does it mean to have good eye contact. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer 90 to 95% of the time and you will be doing it right. You’ll find it easy to establish rapport with the interviewer and, research shows, there’s an added bonus. Your self confidence will increase. Increased self confidence can only improve your interview performance.
Gestures you use, many times unconsciously, can also help or hurt your chances for interview success. Here are a few gestures you should try to avoid during an interview.
§ Tilting your head backwards
§ Tilting your head down
§ Making a fist
§ Hiding your hands
§ Covering your mouth
§ Crossing your arms over your chest
§ Putting your hands on your hips
§ Looking over the frame of your glasses
§ Very large or grand gestures
§ Touching yourself
series continues next week: Grooming For Success