What your body language says about you

If a picture paints a thousand words, then body language says it all. The way you present yourself in a job interview can be as important as the words that come out of your mouth.

The way you sit, move and use your eyes says a great deal about how you are feeling, your confidence and your attitude. Here are some of the ways in which you can make a good impression without saying a word.

Be open

Having your arms crossed, easy to do when you’re nervous, can be intepreted as defensive, closed off and/or uncomfortable. Instead, start strong. Enter with your arms open, showing warmth and confidence. Offer a strong handshake, not a clammy limp offer of fingers pried reluctantly from your folded arms, and direct eye contact.

Keep still

Fidgeting is not only distracting for the people you’re talking to, but it suggests you have low confidence and are feeling distinctly uncomfortable or even bored and impatient.

Nerves can be difficult to hide, but fidgeting is a clear giveaway. If you can’t keep your hands still (apart from using them expressively which shows passion and enthusiasm) then clasp them together on the table in front of you, without clenching so hard your knuckles go white. Do not try to hide them in your pockets. Keep from shifting around on your chair or bouncing your foot around, which shows you’re anxious or stressed, even if you are exactly those things.

Sit up straight

Can you hear the voice of your primary school teachers echoing through the years? They had a point though, because slouching in your chair or draping yourself over the table during a job interview, encroaching on all sorts of personal space issues, doesn’t convey that you’re taking matters all that seriously. Sitting up straight and leaning in ever so slightly gives you an air of confidence and other such positive attributes, while slightly tilting your head can show empathy and a deeper interest in what the other person is saying.

Mirror others

In the same way that you’ll automatically take a seat when your interviewer does, you’re likely to mirror some of their body language. If it so happens that your job interview is taking place on a couch, and your interviewer is seated in a relaxed manner, then you probably can too. Lean in when they do, cross your legs when they do, put an elbow on the table when they do – it’s what humans do and it shows there’s a connection. Don’t be a deliberate copycat though, that would just get a bit strange!

Make eye contact

Maintaining direct eye contact with your interviewer, or interviewers, shows you are confident and interested whereas looking past them, or down at the ground, conveys distraction, disinterest and even impatience. This works both ways: If you see your interviewer staring past your shoulder then you should probably wind up your answer. If you’ve found yourself in front of a panel, then ensure you look at everyone but favour the person who asked the question.

While eye contact is important, don’t get so carried away that you stare them down, which can seem intimidating.

Nod and smile

Rather than listening to your interviewers like a wooden puppet with perfect posture, employ a smile – make it a real one, not a strained grimace - and give an occasional nod which shows them you are engaged and listening, as well as creating a more positive atmosphere.