Body Language Tips for a Job Interview

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 May 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The way you present yourself in a job interview has a significant impact on your performance. Your body language tells the interviewer about your personality, confidence and interest in the job. Understanding how to hold yourself can help you impress the interviewer and increase your chances of getting hired. In this article, we discuss the importance of body language, differentiate between positive and negative body language and offer tips for proper body language during an interview.

What is body language?

Body language is a mode of nonverbal communication where you communicate your feelings through movement or posture of your body. Examples of body language include your sitting posture, walking style, facial expressions, gestures and eye movement. Your body language often sends a clue about your feeling and attitude without you being consciously aware of it. Such clues can give a positive or negative impression about your personality. You can practise the art of controlling your body language in a manner that projects your confidence and positivity.

Importance of body language in an interview

Your body language communicates your emotions and attitude to the interviewer. It tells them whether you are confident, nervous, interested and behaviourally suitable for the given position. The following points explain the importance of body language in a job interview:

It shows your confidence level

The way you sit, talk and carry yourself shows your level of confidence. Irrespective of the job profile, companies often prefer to hire candidates that are confident of themselves. Some positions may require very confident candidates due to seniority of the position such as managerial openings) or the nature of the job (like positions in sales, marketing and public relations).

It reflects your personality

In addition to subject knowledge and work experience, interviewers try to judge your personality to find out whether you can excel in a professional setup. Companies prefer mature and positive candidates. Your body language communicates your personality to the interviewer and impacts their hiring decision.

It displays your communication skills

Communication skills go beyond spoken and written words. Your gestures and body movements are part of the communication process. A good communicator uses their body language effectively to get their point across. In fact, body posture comes naturally to a good communicator. Thus, your body language displays how good a speaker or communicator you are compared to other candidates.

It tells about your professionalism

The way you respond to a given question or situation tells a lot about your professionalism. For example, if you adjust in your seat or cross your arms after the interviewer asks a pointed question about your experience, they may think you're uncomfortable. The interviewer uses these physical signals to judge your professionalism.

It indicates whether you are attentive

If you're looking elsewhere when the interviewer is talking to you or you're paying too much attention to the watch the interviewer is wearing, the interviewer could think you're distracted. Your posture and gestures like eye movement, nodding your head and leaning forward or backward indicate the level of attention you are paying to the interview. As a general rule, recruiters look for candidates who are attentive and keen listeners.

It portrays your interest in the job

Your body language portrays your interest and eagerness in the job, and the higher level of interest increases your chances of selection. If you look tired or frustrated during the interview, the interviewer might think you're not interested in the position.

Positive vs. negative body language

Your body language is positive when it sends out a good impression about you. Positive body language portrays personality traits like confidence, interest, engagement, seriousness and professionalism. Negative body language may show you in poor light by giving a negative impression, such as being insecure, hostile and unapproachable.

Here are some examples of positive body language:

  • Smiling sends out a message that you are cheerful and positive.

  • Giving a firm handshake indicates self-confidence and interest.

  • Making direct eye contact shows that you are confident of what you are saying. It also implies that you are not lying.

  • Sitting straight yet relaxed conveys your confidence and preparedness for the interview.

  • Leaning in towards the interviewer in the right manner shows that you are attentive and interested.

  • Nodding your head signifies that you agree with the speaker and are listening.

Examples of negative body language include the following:

  • Biting your nails demonstrates nervousness and insecurity.

  • Tapping your fingers shows that you are growing impatient.

  • Sitting on the edge of the chair indicates that you are too alert or trying hard to understand the interviewer.

  • Touching your ear or nose too often conveys confusion and indecisiveness.

  • Shaking your legs gives an impression that you are nervous.

Related: Job Interview Tips: How to Make a Great Impression

Tips for proper body language in a job interview

Here are some useful tips on how to present yourself in a job interview so you can radiate confidence and positivity:

Be conscious about your body movements

As soon as you enter the interview venue, be conscious about how you walk, talk, sit and hold yourself. Present yourself as a polite, professional and positive person to everyone you meet. Switch your phone to silent mode from the moment you sit in the waiting room. Use your waiting time to organise your documents and prepare your thoughts. Sit at one place without loitering around. Maintain a good posture and make yourself comfortable. Take a deep breath if you feel nervous or tempted to make negative body movements like yawning and shaking your legs.

Stand up and greet the HR manager, interviewer or contact person when they come to receive you in the waiting room. Give a firm handshake and introduce yourself. Walk confidently and hold your belongings firmly when going to the interview room.

Smile and be cheerful

Smiling is a good way to come across as a friendly person and make the conversation comfortable. Greet the interviewer with a smile as soon as you enter the room. Make it a point to smile in between the conversation whenever you feel appropriate. However, make sure your smile is genuine.

Maintain an upright posture

Sit straight with shoulders down and slightly back. Keep your chin up. You may keep your hands at your sides or loosely clasped in your lap. Keep your legs still and uncrossed. Remember that jiggling your legs can indicate restlessness and may distract the interviewer. Lean a little forward without slouching too much when the interviewer asks you a question. This can highlight your curiosity and interest in the conversation.

Make subtle gestures

Consider making subtle hand gestures, such as moving your fingers and clasping your palms in a natural manner while speaking. Such gestures will position you as a natural communicator. Show your responsiveness to the conversation by nodding and smiling.

Speak in a clear voice

Speak in a clear and controlled voice without any anxiety. Your tone should be in sync with what you are saying. Make sure your voice is devoid of any emotion. For instance, assume that the interviewer just said something funny and you laughed at it. Wait for a while before you speak again so that the impact of your laughter is not present in your voice.

Maintain eye contact

Maintain a moderate amount of eye contact with your interviewer. Little or no eye contact denotes lack of confidence, while too much of it may look aggressive. Keep a right balance between making eye contact and looking away in between your conversation in order to avoid making your interviewer uncomfortable. If there is more than one interviewer, make sure you make eye contact with each of them for a few seconds. In case of a video interview, just look at the camera.

Read more: How to Succeed in a Virtual Interview

Control any fidgeting

Fidgeting is a frequent movement that often signals disinterest and boredom. If you have a habit of frequently moving your hands, fingers or legs (like touching your hair, shaking your fingers or tapping on the table), be sure to keep such movements in check. They may distract the interviewer and send a negative impression about your personality.

Mirror the interviewer

Observe the interviewer and try to mirror the positive aspects of their body language. For instance, smile when they smile, make eye contact when they look at you and adjust your posture to theirs. However, be careful not to imitate them to the point of looking artificial and childish.

Read the interviewer's body language

Understanding the interviewer's body language can help you tailor your response to their requirement. For example, if the interviewer is speaking quickly and shaking their feet impatiently, they may be in a hurry and may prefer brisk answers. If the interviewer keeps nodding and listens patiently to you, they may be interested in a detailed answer.

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