A couple of professionals examine a resume during an interview.

Interview Body Language: What You Don’t
Say Matters Too

Eric Ciechanowski
By Eric Ciechanowski
Last Updated: September 02, 2020

We all know how important it is to say the right things during a job interview. We are evaluated by the way we speak and the words we choose. But that’s not all we’re being evaluated on. Your interview body language could be as important as your vocal abilities. Body language gives great insight into how one is thinking and feeling. At times, we might not say exactly what we mean, but the true meaning can often be deciphered through body language.

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In a job interview, body language can be your best friend or – your worst enemy. If you’re slumped and sagging in your seat, for instance, you may appear to be unenthusiastic or uninterested. If you’re fidgeting or avoiding eye contact, you may look like you’re unsure. On the other hand, confident body language can make a great impression on your interviewer.

So what exactly should your interview body language be? What are some things you should do and some things you should avoid? Sit up straight, make eye contact with your computer screen and let’s take a look at what constitutes successful job interview body language.

Interview Body Language Do's and Don'ts

Basically, like so many things in the business world, it all starts with a handshake.
"Your handshake says more about you than many people imagine," explains Sofia Santiago, director of business development for The WikiWomen Academy for the Development of Professional Women. "A professional handshake needs to be firm, dry, web-to-web (not only the tips of your fingers) and two or three shakes – no more."
Some recruiters and hiring managers suggest practicing your handshake before going on an interview until you get it right. "Somewhere between a limp fish and the grip of death," states professional resume writer Annette Richmond.
How you sit is another important display of your professionalism. Tip: slouching is poor job interview body language. Sitting up straight, with your back against the chair, displays confidence and engagement. If you're a natural sloucher, practice sitting up straight before going on an interview.
As with the handshake, correct sitting posture falls somewhere in the middle ground between a slouched, relaxed look and sitting rigid with your hands clutched into fists in your lap. Some experts even advise against crossing your legs, as this might appear too relaxed.
Here are some more body language no-no's for job interviews:
  • Touching your face: This makes you appear as if you are nervous.
  • Leaning back in your chair: "The worst body language in an interview," says Pierre Tremblay, director of human resources at Dupray. "It shows a real carelessness and cockiness."
  • Excessive gesturing: Moderate hand gestures, such as placing fingertips together while speaking, are acceptable; if it feels like you're gesturing too much, you probably are. Practice not using gestures, or tempering your hand movements, while you speak.
  • Avoiding eye contact: Looking down or somewhere over the interviewer's shoulder might appear as if you're bored or impatient. Learn to look at a person's eyes or other points of the face. Again, practice.

Mirroring: Successful Body Language in an Interview

During an interview, it is important to recognize your interviewer’s body language and mirror it appropriately.
"When your body language mirrors your audience, you start to establish rapport and build trust," says Sonja Hastings, a recruiter for Optimal Sales Search.
If, for example, the interviewer is nodding to show that they are listening while you speak, do the same when they are speaking to you. If they lean forward to show interest in what you're saying, then show your interest when they are speaking by leaning slightly forward in your chair as well.
You can also mirror the way in which they talk. If possible, match the interviewer's tone and pitch and even the pace at which they speak, Santiago suggests. Mirroring "will create a sense of similarity in the other person's mind that will make you instantaneously more likable," she explains.
Remember when mirroring to do so subtly and not overdo it. Too much, and mirroring can quickly become mimicking and is likely to be noticed in an unfavorable way.
Finally, what's the No. 1 job interview body language? Smile. Many recruiters tell us that it's as simple as that. A smile displays confidence and openness. "Remember to smile at everyone you meet at a job interview," Richmond suggests. "Don't save your graciousness for the interviewer alone."

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