IT Employment

Body language dos and don'ts for interviews

You've got your interview spiel down pat. The author of a new book about body language says that it isn't just what you say that matters.

I know, I know. This interviewing thing is a tough business. As if it isn't stressful enough to have to watch what comes out of your mouth, now you have to watch what your body is indirectly conveying.

There's a new book on the market that talks about the psychological implications of body language in the business world. Though it boasts perhaps the longest title I've ever seen in my life -- What Your Body Says (and how to master the message): Inspire, Influence, Build Trust, and Create Lasting Business Relationships -- this book by Sharon Sayler makes some good points about how certain physical gestures can give the wrong impression about you.

The physical gestures Sayler talks about in her book are not always obvious. That is to say, most sane people know that an interviewer isn't likely to respond favorably if you walk into an interview doing Rockette kicks. But did you know that merely standing with your hands behind your back can be misinterpreted?

Hands behind the back. According to Sayler, the hands-behind-the-back stance can be interpreted as meaning, "Geez, I hope you like me," or "You better fear me." This is one point I'm not sure I agree with. First, I'm confused at how one gesture can convey two extreme meanings. I also think it depends on the circumstance. If I'm showing a job candidate around the office, this stance would that a person is really listening to me. Forego the pockets. Sayler does warn against putting your hands in your pockets. If you have your thumbs hanging off the pockets, for example, you're saying "Geez, I hope you like me." If your hands are deep in your pockets jingling change, your unconscious message could be "I'm nervous" or "I'm bored. When is this thing going to be over with?" Don't cross your arms. She reiterates what is fairly common among body language experts and that arms crossed in front of you indicate that you're not open to discussion or that you're annoyed.

So do you put your hands on your hips? Sayler says that this gesture can be interpreted differently depending on the circumstance. After an interview, it could convey to an employer that you're ready to meet the challenges ahead. But during a difficult meeting with a client, however, it could convey annoyance.

But if the hips and the back and the pockets are out, just where do you put your hands? Sayler suggests just leaving your arms at your sides. She recognizes that this make take practice for people for whom some gestures are unconscious. You can prepare for this by watching yourself during conversations and note when the gestures happen. That way, you can consciously try to avoid them.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

33 comments
rwparks.it
rwparks.it

Thank you for your articles Toni. This one just scratches the surface for communication and leaving a good impression. Your body language (e.g. the way you hold your arms) does demonstrate how you present yourself. More-so, this also has an effect on yourself. (Try expressing happiness with your hands in your pockets.) My first rule -- know yourself and your audience. Employers basically love confident, engaging (not overbearing), energetic (not hyperactive), relational people. Know the culture of your target audience (conservative, sensitive, distant, progressive, ...). If you really want that target audience, then be that person. The best course to an encore comes from preparation and practice. p.s. A corollary to this is how you dress for the part.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

googled this stuff ages ago.... Besides it's cultural and situational. In many cultures meeting someone eyes is a sign of aggression for instance. Not doing so then could be taken as obsequiousness. Mind you a lot of employers are looking for that....

Englebert
Englebert

In my younger days, after reading some interview advice, during an interview with a woman, I focused on her eyes. She kept looking away from me periodically, couldn't figure out why. Later realized, she probably was uncomfortable. So, here's another don't ....don't stare into a woman's eyes.

wmoses
wmoses

And whatever you do, don't "flip them the bird." While a common gesture, especially on today's roadways, it can be seen as condescending and unprofessional.

mark.duckett
mark.duckett

What a load of tosh, at an interview be who you are, be honest. If you try to psych the interviewer out by hiding your traits/personality then they will see you as wooden or worse still devious. Trust who you are and focus on your skills.

Kinara
Kinara

Please have some substance in your articles. Total waste of time. Totally fuc!@#ing stupid points made in the article.

RealGem
RealGem

Behind back, in pockets, crossed = all bad. What would be really helpful are tips on what I *should* do with them? Firmly at my side, or does that say "Robot" to the interviewer. Resting on the table? Waving around making expressive gestures? What?

Jaqui
Jaqui

Culture of the people involved. I ready an article on how body language was used to find out which of two girls had caused an issue in a high school. both girls were Spanish, the Vice Principle wasn't. One girl kept her eyes down while talking, the other looked the VP in the eye. The VP decided the latter was not to blame, yet the school councillor over-ruled that. Seems an HONEST Spanish girl wouldn't make eye contact, culturally they were taught no to. only one lying would. This is why we need to learn about the various cultures, to improve our understanding of the body language used by those around us in this jet travel shrunken world.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

for the already panicking to really start the sweat flowing... I don't go for lists of "do/don't", just rehearse. It's a performance like any other.

Former Big Iron Guy
Former Big Iron Guy

You beg the question. Why even take the time to enter a comment or reply if TechRepublic's corner of the blogosphere is so unworthy of you valuable time. For myself, I think that Toni Bowers provides good information on a regular basis. Get a life, please.

Jaqui
Jaqui

been known to knit while doing many thing. :D While it can be considered a no-go for an interview, it can be a good thing for one also. 1) You find ways to be creative all the time. 2) you keep constructively occupied. 3) you can multitask, on fairly complex taskings 4) you have an eye for detail. [ if the knitting is well done ] 5) you have patience. It also tells people that you don't ignore old technology just because there is a newer one out, so you will not be pushing to adopt the latest and greatest just because. :D

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

you use them to strike kung-fu poses to underline your answers!

Steve__Jobs
Steve__Jobs

Why they make it a magic art, I do not know. There are seven basic areas to be aware of: (1) Do not cross arms (= open and not defensive). (2) Keep palms up when emphasising a point (=honesty). (3) If male, cross legs (=confidence). (4) Do not avoid eye contact (=no guilt or mis-truths). Focus on the interviewere nose. (5) Do not arch your eyebrows when telling an important point (= not lying). (6) Do not wave your hands in front of your face (= not trying to conceal). (7) Mirror the others core body language (= on same wavelength).

tuomo
tuomo

Love the idea because I have always gone by instinct when interviewing - sorry to say, works when I'm the interviewer but not so well when I'm the one to be interviewed - heh! Anyway, there are many good advices but positions are different, some positions need dominating and some submissive attitude, different gestures. May sound clear but there is a real difference and, of course, if the interviewer has low self esteem, it may get very difficult - seen that and really once had to change the interviewer, just not suitable, too opinionated.

bergenfx
bergenfx

as long as you don't go for the Madonna look.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

That complainer is probably the same kind of guy who eats an entire meal and then explains that it was bad and wants his money back.

Jaqui
Jaqui

when the body language is culturally different you are fighting yourself to mirror the other person's. but if you can do it, then yes, that is often a good way to go.

bergenfx
bergenfx

from his Lady Macbeth audition. (He didn't get the part. Problem with the mustache).

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

...instantiation of Godwin's Law to my knowledge :)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

And a list of "Don't do this", and "In no circumstances do that" and "If you do this you'd better just run for cover already" helps how? All I'm saying is, that I foresee this affecting many people as Basil's "Don't mention the WAR!!!" I'd be flapping my hands in unseemly francticality, at least.

Jaqui
Jaqui

You don't need to think about your body language when doing an interview, it's that you have to work to have the mindset that is important to control what messages your body is sending to the person interviewing you. if you are bored, then that's the message your body language sends.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Now I am completely puzzled... almost as out of it as I would be if I tried to think of my body language during an interview. :)

bergenfx
bergenfx

What you have said is totally irrelevant. You JUST don't get it, do you? Listen Up! Maybe you will learn something. Body language is good because it is body and language and that is the way it is supposed to be. Edited to add smiley face in case you thought I caught the same virus that seems to be going around ... here -->

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Too much to think about... and none of it coming natural. Further, no-one's taking social status or roles into account. Mirroring someone who's doing "the boss" -pose in an interview isn't a good idea. So don't think about all this crap at all. Just rehearse your points at home, to get some certainty in you, and don't worry about body language at all... unless you have some kind of aberration going on.

jkameleon
jkameleon

It wasn't like "You are like Hitler" or "Hitler did that too", but "Through hard practice, even a moron like Hitler can learn body language and rhetoric."

mg23gerard
mg23gerard

Any intentional invocation of Godwin's law for its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful. Case in point.

Editor's Picks