Looking back at two decades old textbooks I studied while completing a degree in the "dark art" of psychology, I discovered two things: one - I am quite old ... Two - the more things change, the more they stay the same!

You would think that with all the freely available information about interviewing on Google and YouTube, being an interviewing genius would be easy.

However, just knowing the "standard" answers to tricky questions will not be enough to get you over the line in today's highly competitive employment market.

According to which psychologist you listen to, body language is thought to account for between 50 to 80 per cent of all communication. Non-verbal cues such as eye contact, use of your arms or facial expressions can start to derail your interview, even if your answers all sound "correct".


However, getting some of the basics right, can dramatically improve how you are perceived by the employer, massively increasing your chance to leave with a job offer.

1. Facial Expressions
Many times I have been interviewing a great candidate, but wished they showed just a bit more personality. When people are trying hard to be very professional, they sometimes come across as difficult or a bit rude. Remember its okay to smile and engage your interviewers. At the end of the day, we recruit people we like!

2. Eye contact
The eyes are called the "windows to the soul", therefore you want positive eye contact with all interviewers during your time with them. Gazing at the questioner will show you are interested and paying attention. However, "staring them out" will make them feel uncomfortable and threatened. Balance your eye contact among all interviewers evenly, allowing them to gain a feeling of trust in you and what you offer.

3. Posture
How you hold your body (your posture) is directly linked to your "presence" at the interview. An open body posture indicates connection, friendliness and enthusiasm. However, a closed posture (hunching forward or crossing your arms and legs) indicates various states such as aggression, coldness, fear or worry. Never a good look!

4. Hands
One thing I used to struggle with under pressure is "where do I put my hands?" They seemed to grow out of proportion and become beacons to all and sundry that "I am well out of my depth!" However managing your hands is probably the easiest of all the issues discussed here. While many of us use our hands during natural conversation, remember not to use too many wild gestures. Also holding a pencil or pen, or resting an arm on your chair or table can portray that you are relaxed and calm (even though that may not be the truth).

5. Dress
The single most positive thing you can do to improve your body language is dress and present yourself well. Feeling good about your appearance will give you more confidence, thereby minimising any negatives that would normally come through in your body language.

Remember that you need to manage your body and what you are saying when you are not speaking. Get these basics right, and you are far closer to receiving that exciting job offer at your next interview!
• Tom O'Neil is an award-winning business speaker, international author of The 1 per cent Principle and Selling Yourself to Employers, and CEO of both CV.CO.NZ and AchievementExpert.com. You can contact Tom at tom@cv.co.nz.