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Joined: Jul/29/2009
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Job Interview - Body Language
    Posted: Mar/03/2014 at 4:22pm

What your body language says can win or cost you the job

By Lisa Evans
February 17, 2014   

body languageLack of Canadian experience is the most common reason newcomers get and give for why they can’t get ahead in the Canadian labour market. Another reason is insufficient English communication skills. While there is truth to these things, there is a subtler reason you may be failing to make the right impression with potential employers — your nonverbal communication. In other words, how you carry yourself and what message that sends regardless of language or credentials. 

“Nonverbal communication can have a big impact on your professional life. We make judgments about other people instantly,” says Mark Bowden, Toronto-based body language expert and author of Winning Body Language.

This becomes especially crucial when networking in person or at a face-to-face job interview. When Natalie Youssef immigrated to Canada from Australia in 2010, she thought a refined resumé would be sufficient to land a job, but after studying up on interviewing skills, she came across some research that stated that body language was perhaps an even more important skill.

“I didn’t realize how impactful it could be in terms of how others perceive you,” she says. Youssef currently works at the Vancouver YMCA as a program facilitator and now coaches youth on developing interviewing skills. While many employment programs across the country emphasize how to write a flawless resumé and craft brilliant answers to question s about education and experience, Youssef also incorporates lessons in appropriate body language into her teachings and says she’s witnessed the positive impact nonverbal communication can have on a candidate’s success in an interview.

Have a job interview coming up? Follow these tips and perfect your interview body language, from the moment you enter the door to the final goodbye.


Waiting patiently

Youssef says your body language in the waiting room is as important as body language in the interview. “If you’re sitting upright with your chest up and head up, not fidgeting and being free from technological devices, it looks like you’re ready,” she says. A relaxed, slouched posture with your head down reading a magazine or sending a text on your phone can send the interviewer the impression that you’re disinterested and disengaged before you even have the opportunity to answer any questions about your skills and qualifications.

Bowden says human resources professionals often say they know the right candidate for the job as soon as they walk into the room, but struggle to explain what it was about the person that they found so attractive. “They’ve got a whole bunch of instinctual feelings about the person that are a direct result of a person’s body language,” he says. You don’t want to give someone a negative feeling before you even get to shake their hand.


Sitting in a comfortable position

Once in the interview room, sit in a comfortable position that ensures you avoid fidgeting. Placing both feet firmly on the ground can help you to concentrate as the body is trained to utilize both hemispheres of the brain when you’re in this seated position. While crossing legs is an acceptable behaviour if this makes you feel comfortable, be aware of which direction your legs are facing. “[If your legs are crossed] far away from the interviewer, it can look as though you’re desperate to go in the opposite direction,” says Bowden.


Invading personal space?

Be conscious of how much space there is between you and the interviewer. Bowden recommends placing some space between your body and the desk to avoid crowding the interviewer. If you’re at a small desk, placing your hands on the desk too close to the interviewer’s papers, for example, can make them feel that you’re invading their personal space and will cause an unconscious reaction in their brain that identifies you as a threat, immediately causing them to dislike you without knowing why. “They’ll justify it later saying there was something in your resumé they didn’t like, but really it’s because you made them nervous when your hand was too close to their coffee cup,” says Bowden.


Gesturing and hand placement

At the same time, avoid sitting on your hands or hiding them in your lap. Bowden recommends keeping hands at belly button height in an area he calls the “truth plane” and confining gestures within that area.

“When people get excited they tend to gesture at chest height,” says Bowden. This causes heart rate to increase and can make speech more rapid, giving the impression that you’re easily excitable. By contrast, dropping your hands to your side can make you appear dejected. Keeping gestures confined to the naval area conveys that you’re calm and assertive. Gesturing is a great communication tool that shows you’re connected and passionate, but you want your gestures to help you, not harm you. Avoid gesturing wildly, keeping your movements controlled and predictable.


The head tilt

Tilting your head slightly to one side shows that you’re giving the interviewer your ear. “Employers are looking for people who are good listeners,” says Bowden. This slight gesture can go a long way toward creating a positive impression.


Making eye contact

Making the appropriate amount of eye contact can make you appear more likeable and show you’re engaged in the discussion. Looking down at your shoes or focusing on the table in front of you can convey a lack of confidence and even make you appear disinterested. Then again, if your eyes are darting around the room, it can send the message that you’re unsure of yourself and are trying to conjure up an answer on the spot. Blinking rapidly can indicate stress and a desire to avoid the truth, making you appear dishonest.

If you have trouble making eye contact due to personal or cultural reasons, Bowden offers a tip. “People who put their hands at belly height get better eye contact. If you put your hands by your side, looking away increases and looking at the floor increases because [your stress levels have increased],” he says.

Further, if you have a tendency to look away or glance upward when trying to recall information, practise talking about your work experience or an interesting story that highlights your skills before the interview, so the details are fresh in your mind and you don’t have to search your brain for the information, which causes your eyes to lose focus.

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