Using body language to nail that job

By Suzanne Masefield

Employers like, dislike, trust or mistrust people within the first 10 seconds of meeting them. Photo / Thinkstock
Employers like, dislike, trust or mistrust people within the first 10 seconds of meeting them. Photo / Thinkstock

We determine whether we like, dislike, trust or mistrust people within the first 10 seconds of meeting them, with up to 70 per cent of a job interviewer's assessment being based, consciously and subconsciously, on people's body-language. By being aware of positive body-language you can increase your prospects, and avoid negative gestures that might sabotage your opportunity.

Whether you're being interviewed or doing the interviewing, consciously take charge of your body-language. It will focus your energy to identify the subtle non-verbal cues of the person in front of you, and increase your chances of success.

Positive body language
Your CV might represent your skills and experience, but an interviewer wants to see the real you, in the flesh. They want to know if you'll get on with others, as well as do the job competently. It's about the way you shake the interviewer's hand, the eye contact you use, how you sit in the chair, how you use your hands. In essence, it's about body-language.

Dress to impress
Your appearance reflects your self-mastery and your dress code needs to fit the company and position _ too casual could make people think you're casual about your work, which includes hair, makeup, accessories and hygiene. The rule of thumb is clean, well-groomed and tidy. This may seem obvious, but in my experience, candidates often fall short in these areas. A confident, friendly, attentive manner with good interpersonal body-language effectiveness goes a long way to convincing the interviewer you are the right candidate for the position.

Show enthusiasm
* Upright posture: reflects self-confidence
* Eye contact: engagement and interest
* Genuine smile (with eyes): openness and positivity
* Arms open and relaxed: willingness to build relationships
* Open palms or lightly in lap: open personality with nothing to hide
* Equal handshake: confidence and respect
* Head tilted to the side: interested and listening
* Lean forward slightly: attentive and responsive
* Plant both feet on the floor: stabilises your body
* Breathe steadily: oxygen calms nerves

Eight habits to avoid
* Slouching: implies lethargy, disinterest!
* Crossing arms: defensiveness, negative attitude
* Hands in pockets: something to hide
* Speaking too fast, or interrupting: nervousness, not listening
* Fiddling with hair, cell phone: anxiety, distraction
* Stroking neck or arms: need for reassurance
* Fidgeting or foot-tapping: impatient, wants to escape
* Wringing hands: anxious (the closer to the face the more anxiety)

Negative gestures imply you're defensive, unsure of what you're saying or even lying. Avoid these, or you'll undo all the attributes in your CV.

Stand with the interviewer at the end, shake hands, maintaining good eye-contact, thank them and exit with upright posture you entered with. Be yourself and be at ease _ it sounds easy, but this manner is a potent and compelling selling point.

Interviewing others
You can also use positive body-language to heighten your interviewing skills. It will set up a stable foundation to read others more effectively and create a welcoming environment to encourage openness in candidates.

Interviewer's checklist
Use the following as a guide in observing candidates' body-language during an interview. You are looking for things like:

* Body posture and position: is it open or closed, upright or slouched?
* Head, shoulders, feet direction: are they facing you or away (engaged or disinterested)?
* Facial micro-expressions: are they happy, or fearful, or showing contempt?
* Head position: tilted up, down, to the side?
* Hand and arm positions: are their hands open, closed or hidden?
* Body movement: is it jerky, fidgeting, very still, or relaxed?
* Voice tone and pace: is it high-pitched, quiet, fast, slow?
* Hand-to-face gestures: suggest nerves, negativity or possible deception

Mismatched messages
When interviewing, look for warning signs of deception. This is body language that doesn't match what is said, such as placing hands in pockets and lowering the chin, while saying they enjoyed their last job. Or using facial micro-expressions of fear (eyebrows raised, stress lines on forehead, tight mouth) while saying they have great references.

As body language is universal and mostly unconscious, these signals are more accurate and reliable to go by than words alone.

Identifying positive and negative cues helps establish candidates' personality, attitude, whether they are proactive, confident, nervous, laid-back, lazy and whether they're a good fit for the position. It will speed up your search time.

Suzanne Masefield is a body-mind analyst and director of The Body Language Company. She is offering Herald on Sunday readers a free Body Language 4 Success report, valued at $30.

- Herald on Sunday

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