We all know that it's important to dress well for a job interview, that we should prepare by researching the company and anticipate what questions may be asked – but what can you do to enhance your chances even further? The answer, according to Suzanne Masefield of The Body Language Company, is pay attention to how you're using your body in the interview.
Masefield says as far as body language is concerned, it's important to prepare yourself in advance. "You've got to get into the right mindset. You can do that quite quickly by changing your posture. Be more upright, but don't be rigid.
"You need to be relaxed. You don't want to go into a job interview looking like a bulldozer – it doesn't work."
She says: "Posture is really important because that's one of the things that reflects confidence and it also reflects a level of respect to other people. Posture is generally bad these days because people often lean forward and slouch because they work with computers – so their shoulders are often rounded."
She says slouching also increases cortisol levels (stress hormone) and will make you feel even more nervous.
"Keep breathing down to the stomach. Maybe practice that in front of the mirror before you go to the interview. Stand upright, bend your knees and just feel comfortable in your own body. Your head should be upright, not leaning forward like a tortoise. It's really common – people don't always realise that their heads ride forward."
Masefield says that at the interview, eye contact is important. "For a lot of people it's an intimate thing and so people can look quickly and then look away. The best thing you can do is look long enough to see the colour of someone's eyes and then look to the side. I call it the seven second gaze – it also takes into account cultural awareness."
She says Asian and Pacific Asian cultures often see direct eye contact as a sign of disrespect and they won't do that with people higher in the hierarchical structure. "They won't do that with people that they consider above them. People can misread that as being shifty or not interested when they're just showing respect. So it's important to be culturally aware as far as eye contact is concerned, and that goes for prospective employees and employers."
She says physical connection can be important when you enter the interview.
"A handshake is connecting and shows you're proactive – if they don't put their hand out first, put your one out first. Lean forward towards the person, put your hand out, give them direct eye contact – don't glare at them. Seven seconds is good."
She says it's good to remember that this all works on both sides – interviewer and person being interviewed.
"We need to remember that the interviewer's job is to draw somebody out. So their body language is also so important.
"The interviewer should open and smile. Be welcoming – don't be shuffling things on your desk as someone comes in, that can make them feel disregarded from the start.
"Ideally you won't be behind a desk – don't have a barrier between you. Help the person relax by acknowledging they may be nervous. Sit quietly and listen, lean forward, nod your head when the interviewee is talking. That's a helpful way of getting people talk more. Have open palm gestures."
Other advice for interviewees and interviewers is to smile.
"It's so important – when they're nervous, people rarely smile. It needs to be a smile that goes to your eyes, not one that gets plastered on your face.
"A genuine smile can elevate your mood. "Maybe watch something funny before the interview or think of something you're grateful for – it will help you with your interacting. It shows openness and positivity and immediately brings about trust if you have a genuine smile."
Other things to consider.
"Don't have your arms folded, be relaxed. Also use your hands – talk with your hands in the space between your neck and your belly button. That's the area of trust. When you show your hands it shows you haven't got a weapon – it goes right back to that primal stuff.
"Don't slouch in the chair. Don't bring in coffee cups. Do accept water if it's offered, as when you're nervous your mouth can get quite dry. Don't be too worried if you seem a bit nervous – interviewers expect that. Remember to put your phone on silent – or better, turn it off...
"Plant both feet on the floor – it helps you feel grounded. Keep breathing. Lean forward slightly, relax in your body. Be present to what's happening in your body.
"If you feel relaxed, you'll come across as confident."