While researching my work etiquette blog last month, I came across several related articles on body language. Most of the time we do not consciously pay attention to how we are portaying ourselves non-verbally, yet research has suggested up to half of what we “say’ is revealed by our bodies not our words.
So being aware of your body language is an important skill which you can use to your advantage, especially in an interview or formal meeting situation. Appropriate body language conveys confidence, a positive and professional approach, and an interest in the job. Following are some tips to help make body language work for you and create a favourable impression to interviewers:
Non-verbal communication includes your appearance so ensure you are correctly dressed for the occasion. Professional clothing will also make you stand taller, improve your posture and help you appear more confident.
Be aware of your body language while waiting for your interview. You are likely to be nervous but pacing the room, slumping in the chair or chewing your nails is not a good look. Remember to smile at staff in the reception area. Switch your mobile phone off!
Smile, handshake and posture
A warm friendly smile and a firm handshake are great ways to make a good first impression at the interview. Wait to be invited to sit and remember to sit upright. Good posture is a sign you are alert and keen. Leaning slightly towards the speaker will convey interest too, while leaning away can indicate you’d rather be elsewhere. Try to relax but do not do slouch as this displays disinterest in the job or even a lazy personality.
Making eye contact and looking at the person who is speaking is the best way to express interest and shows you are listening to them. If you have more than one person interviewing you, look at the person asking the question when you reply but include the other interviewers by glancing at them now and then. Often people will tilt their head to one side as they listen and nodding your head occasionally also indicates that you are actively listening and receptive to what is being said.
Hands, arms and legs
Folding your arms across your chest can make you appear defensive and uncomfortable. Relaxed on the table is the best option but avoid fiddling with pen and paper as this can be distracting. If standing at any time, hold your arms by your sides as many people consider it rude to talk with your hands in your pockets. “Talking” with your hands and waving them around too much can be really annoying so keep gesturing to a minimum or just to emphasise a point. Jiggling your legs or toe tapping is a sign of nervousness so be aware of what’s going on under the table! Feet flat on the floor is preferable or crossed at the ankle.
Many of the above will come naturally but when you are in a stressful situation it is easy to overlook what your body is saying. If the message you are trying to express in conversation is matched by the messages your body language is conveying, you will give yourself an edge.