Body-Language Tactics That Sway Interviewers

Posture, eye contact, and other nonverbal communication can speak volumes about your feelings and attitudes. Here's how to impress hiring managers with mannerisms that project confidence and enthusiasm.

Before a job interview, do you peruse magazines or review prepared notes? When the meeting begins, do you wait to be told where to sit or choose your own chair? And do you give passionately expressive or carefully controlled responses?

In each of these instances, your body language speaks volumes about how you’d perform at a company. In fact, some experts say nonverbal cues are more important than verbal ones. According to these studies, body language comprises 55% of the force of any response, whereas the verbal content only provides 7%, and “paralanguage,” or the intonation, pauses and sighs given when answering, represents 38% of the emphasis.

Jo-Ann Vega, president of JV Career and Human Resources Consulting Services in Nyack, N.Y., says body language is so important that it frequently torpedoes what we say.

“Our nonverbal messages often contradict what we say in words,” says Ms. Vega. “When we send mixed messages or our verbal messages don’t jibe with our body statements, our credibility can crumble because most smart interviewers believe the nonverbal.”

Laid-off managers are a case in point. They’re often so traumatized by their terminations that they appear downcast, even when discussing their strengths, says Ms. Vega. Difficult questions can throw them off balance, and their anxiety may cause them to fidget or become overly rigid, she says.

Since nonverbal communication is more eloquent, honest and accurate than verbal communication, such actions reveal your inner confidence. While words can deceive—many people don’t mean what they say or say what they mean—body language is subconscious. Since it’s more spontaneous and less controlled, it shows our true feelings and attitudes.

Still, most people discount the importance of nonverbal communication because their education and training placed more emphasis on spoken words. To become more adept at interpreting and using body language, heighten your awareness of nonverbal signals and learn to trust your “gut” instinct. Then, when interviewing, use the following tips to accentuate body language that stresses professionalism and performance.

The First Moments

Realize that you’re being judged as soon as you arrive at the company. Set the right tone by being early, then use the extra time to compose yourself. When waiting for interviewers, don’t open your briefcase to review notes you’ve prepared. Instead, glance through available magazines or literature in the waiting area.

This creates the impression that you’re relaxed before stressful events, and helps you project confidence during the critical early moments of the interview.

If a receptionist or secretary indicates that the interviewer is ready to see you, enter his or her office as though you belonged. Knocking on the door, or opening it and peeking in, shows hesitation, which may be interpreted as a lack of confidence.

Greet your interviewer with a firm, sincere handshake. More than a few candidates have betrayed their nervousness by extending limp, clammy palms, and shaking hands weakly.

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