Non-Verbal Interview Success:

4 Strategies that can Increase Your Effectiveness

by Judy Kaplan Baron, Ph.D. 
(In San Diego, she offers Career Counseling / Career Coaching and Interview Coaching.  She is a Master Career Counselor, Nationally Certified Career Counselor, and Registered Professional Career Counselor)

With the poor economy and the tightening job market, you need every possible advantage to generate the job offer from an interview.   How do most people prepare?  They learn about the company and practice answering frequently asked interview questions.  But that’s not enough!  Research shows that an interview is often made or broken within the first 30-60 seconds you meet.  How so fast?  It’s frequently not based on what you actually say.  Instead, it’s the result of the image you portray via non-verbals, i.e. body language and the tone of your voice. 

With this in mind, here are four bottom-line guidelines to provide a nonverbal, winning advantage in a job interview.

1) Be genuine from the start.  When you greet your interviewer, smile.  Even if you’re nervous, smile!  A smile suggests warmth and people tend to like people who smile.  (It’s unlikely that you’ll get hired if the interviewer doesn’t like you.)  Provide engaging eye contact which is soft, not staring.  Ideally, you should maintain eye contact 60% of the time.  It’s fine to look away when you’re thinking.  However, when you’re answering a question and speaking, it’s best to look at the interviewer(s).

If a handshake is offered, shake firmly while saying something equivalent to, "Mr. Jones, I'm really pleased to meet you." Using the interviewer’s name may set you apart from others, shows you pay attention to detail, and people in general like to hear their name spoken.

2) Demonstrate confidence with appropriate hand and arm movements.  Never fold your arms across your chest in front of you or sit with your hands clasped.  You’ll appear defensive and uncomfortable at best, closed-minded or bored at worst.  To come across as confident, receptive and unguarded, keep your hands open and relaxed on the table or desk. When your body is open, you project trustworthiness.  Always keep your hands visible.  You have greater credibility when your hands are visible.

3) Pay attention to your seated body posture.  In most chairs, if you sit with your derriere at the back of the chair, you’ll appear as if you’re sitting up straight without any effort.  Keep your chin parallel to the floor.  If it’s tilted, you’re likely to have less credibility.  Avoid touching your face.  People are perceived as not telling the truth or being uncomfortable when they touch their face while talking.    Don't cross your legs.  Crossing them can create a perceived barrier between you and your interviewer. It can also become a distraction if you wiggle or bounce your feet.  Keep your legs parallel and feet flat on the floor.  Your voice will project louder and at a deeper tone, providing a greater air of confidence. 

4) Finger gestures.  If you think what you do with your fingers during an interview is irrelevant, think again!  Steepling your fingers can be perceived as arrogance. Also, avoid pointing your finger(s).  The pointed finger gesture tends to make people uncomfortable.  If you need and/or /want to point, use your entire hand instead of just one finger.

Summary.  Experts agree we communicate more non-verbally than we do with words.  You can set the stage for success or failure in the first 30-60 seconds of an interview by paying attention to your non-verbal mannerisms.  Maintain engaging, soft eye contact approximately 60% of the time.  Provide a firm handshake.  Keep your hands visible at all times.  Use hand gestures, but don’t cross your arms, point with your finger, fold your hands or hold them in a steepling position.  Sit up straight with feet flat on the floor.  Increase the potential to be successful by utilizing non-verbal behaviors that generate credibility, friendliness, and warmth. 

 Contact Information