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Is Your Body Betraying You? Body Language No-Nos During an Interview September 27, 2008

Posted by dapinoyemployee in Handling Interviews.
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When you’re being interviewed, know that you will be placed under another person’s observant eye.  In a way, you will be judged – the way you dress, the way you talk, how you speak, how you move, what gestures you use, etc.  Since interviews can be rather nerve-wracking and to some extent, terrifying, learn how to manage your physical movements.  Here are some of the gestures and body language mistakes you should try to avoid:

Don’t look at the floor.
Or that space just an inch to the right of your interviewer’s face.  Or that painting on the wall of seven horses breaking the waves.  Or that pigeon outside the window.  Maintain eye contact.  It shows sincerity, focus, interest and confidence.

Don’t grimace.
Grimacing, frowning or scrunching up your eyebrows may be your way of showing interest but to an interviewer who isn’t familiar with your natural facial expressions, these show a negative reaction.  It could alternately show disappointment, disapproval, even anger.

Avoid touching yourself.
Keep hands curled naturally at your lap and raise them only to make gestures.  Don’t grip the table, touch your face or mouth, chew on your fingernails, rub your shoulders, scratch your armpit, play with your hair, fidget, fiddle with a pen, your tie or dress or fold your arms.

If your hands must move, they should do so as part of your strategy to capture your interviewer’s attention.  They should be an extension of your mind, allowing you to express your ideas better and make them tangible. 

Just don’t let your arms or hands stray more than a foot from your torso.  Gestures that are too expansive will make you look arrogant.  Keep arms in front of you and avoid hooking them over the back of the chair.

Yes, you can cross your legs.
Just don’t cross and uncross them often.  It shows nervousness or discomfort.  Don’t jiggle your legs or tap your feet to music only you can hear.  It’s distracting.  If you’re a man, avoid spreading your legs too far – the kind of posture you usually have when you’re watching TV at home.  It shows arrogance and a bit of laziness.

Keep your spine straight.
Good posture shows confidence, good health and fitness.  If you hunch over, that’s bad body language – you’ll look tired, bored or even sick. 

Don’t lean too much on the back of the chair because it shows that you’re trying to distance yourself away from the interviewer.  Lean forward a little bit but not too much or you’ll seem too enthusiastic or myopic, or both.

Don’t yawn.
Even if you’re bored or even if the interviewer does it first.  Suppress the need to do so.  How?  Coughing a little or clearing my throat worked for me.  If pinching your arm or shifting your position helps, do so.

Don’t chew.
If you use gum as some sort of security blanket (I know a few people who like to chew on a few pieces when they’re nervous), remember to put the gum in a small piece of paper and throw it in the trash bin.  Never chew gum during an interview.  Your interviewer will feel as if they’re talking to a masticating cow. 

In case you forgot, you could try to hide the gum between your teeth where it won’t be seen.  Just make sure that it won’t show as a small bump on your cheek.  This happened to me once during an interview – I forgot to throw away the gum I was chewing on when I came in.  So I bit the gum and stashed it between my molars, even pressing down on it through my cheek so it won’t bulge. 

The interview went well, although I had to make a few adjustments on how I spoke.  The problem was that I kept drooling and had to swallow a hundred times during the interview just to keep the saliva in check.  It was an ‘ewww’ moment but what can I do?  I simply forgot about the gum. 

Speak in a well-modulated and calm voice.
Don’t speak too quickly or too slowly.  In many jobs, the way your voice sounds like and how you talk figure heavily on whether or not you get hired.  Positions such as customer service, front desk operations, sales and marketing, public relations, supervisory and managerial jobs will often require you to have good to excellent communication skills.

If offered food or candy, refuse politely.
Why?  You don’t really think you could talk well if you were chewing, right?  If the interviewer offers you something to eat, say no, thank you.  You could ask for a glass of water, if you prefer.

Never look at your watch.
So the interview has dragged on long enough.  Do you need to know the time or how long it’s been?  No, you don’t.  Keep your focus on the interviewer and the topic of the interview.

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