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What your body language says in an interview

So much of what you communicate has nothing to do with the words coming out of your mouth. We talked to a few experts to find out just what your body signals actually convey to an interviewer.

Happy business woman leaving an interview

Photo credit: Chris Ryan/Caiaimage/Getty images

Handshakes help bonding

First things first, make sure you have a strong handshake. That is the first tangible impression you give to your interviewer, and it can get things started on the right foot. Avoid the two-handed handshake, cautions Joe Navarro, former FBI counterintelligence agent and author of What Every Body is Saying. “But if there’s an opportunity to touch the interviewer on the arm naturally, that can work to your benefit,” Navarro says. “That causes the release of oxytocin, which is a bonding chemical, and it might help you get the job.” Studies have shown that people applying for loans were more likely to get the loan if they created that contact.

Smiling shows enthusiasm

It might seem like a no-brainer, but the other important element of your first impression is your smile. “Smiling is appropriate at the beginning and the end of the interview, along with when you are talking about your accomplishments,” says Lisa Elia, a media trainer, and founder of Elia Erickson Consulting. Smiling at these times, or whenever your interviewer is smiling, will show your enthusiasm for the job. “A slight smile or pleasant ‘resting face’ is something to aspire to throughout the interview,” Elia says. And if you’re headed out to an interview during or after your lunch break, freshen your smile with ARM & HAMMER™ Truly Radiant™ toothpaste and ARM & HAMMER™ Spinbrush™ Truly Radiant™ Deep Clean toothbrush.

Tilting your head shows interest

While mastering the business appropriate smile is necessary, even more important than the smile is the head tilt. “When you tilt your head to the side, what you’re saying is ‘I’m listening; I’m receptive; I’m capable of learning new things.’ And we never understood the power of that until we did studies that showed babies are already receptive to head tilts at just a few months of age,” Navarro says.

Speak with your hands for emphasis

Once you’re in the office or conference room, the next thing to think about is how you sit. It goes without saying that adopting a straight posture will give a better impression. And leaning slightly forward will indicate to the interviewer that you are interested in what they are saying, while leaning back will convey arrogance or disinterest. If it’s comfortable for you, it’s perfectly OK to cross your legs at the knee or the ankle, but avoid crossing your legs with one ankle on the opposite knee, as it is too casual a posture.

When you first sit down, it is best to start with your hands on your lap or on the arms of your chair. “But as soon as the questions and answers start, you want to demonstrate with your hands,” says Navarro. “Our brains are actually seduced by hands that illustrate a point,” he adds. Good news for those of you who talk with your hands naturally. Just be sure not to punctuate your speech too emphatically with hand gestures, cautions Elia, as it can make you appear nervous, flighty or immature.

Eye contact to avoid arrogance

One of the biggest challenges during an interview is finding a comfortable pattern of eye contact. Looking at the interviewer when they are speaking will convey interest, and when you’re speaking, it’s perfectly natural to glance away when you’re gathering your thoughts. Just avoid looking around rapidly; it can come across as nervous or untrustworthy. It’s also important to keep your eyes focused on your interviewer as you’re entering their office instead of looking around too much, which Navarro says can come off as arrogance.

Fidgeting is distracting

If you are nervous about the interview, make sure you don’t display any of the behaviors that can betray your nerves. Fidgeting or repetitive movements can be soothing, but they are very noticeable, and can let your interviewer know that you feel unqualified for the job. Men should pay attention to bouncing their legs and women should avoid playing with their hair or jewelry. When in doubt, do your best to mirror the behavior of your interviewer. That doesn’t mean repeating his or her actions gesture for gesture, but simply reading their nonverbal cues and adopting the same level of formality.

Power pose before you interview

One final note: Don’t underestimate the power of the power pose, says Navarro. Studies have shown that just two minutes of a power pose can make you more confident in an interview or other stressful situation. Not only does it increase your feeling of power, it also raises your testosterone level, which makes you appear more self-assured to others. So follow Madonna’s advice, and strike a pose.

This post is sponsored by ARM & HAMMER™.

More interview tips

10 Steps to make a good job interview great
25 Surprisingly tricky interview questions
Biggest job interview blunders to avoid

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