Job Interviews: the art of mastering body language

Often a decision about whether to hire you can be made within seconds of the interview, purely based on your body language. People with powerful body language, open and spread out movements, are often more confident. Initiate International, a specialist in finance recruitment, gives some insight into good body language techniques that could greatly improve your first impression and chances for a potential recruitment offer. Further, Amy Cuddy’s (TED Talk); Body language shapes who you are, notes that people who use powerful body language take risks, feel optimistic, and even produce less cortisol (stress hormone) and more testosterone (dominance hormone).  Acting Head of ACCA SA, Karen Smal, points out that body language becomes more notable during behavioral job interview questions which, will be more focused than traditional interview questions, and you’ll need to respond with special examples of how you handled situations in the workplace.

Below are some body language do’s and don’ts, which if you master, will help you coin the interview:

Sitting – Your posture, while sitting on your chair, gives away a lot about you. Slouching makes you appear lazy and tired or a little bit too relaxed in a situation where you should be serious and focused. Leaning forward, especially intruding on your interviewers space or territory by placing personal items in their space, can make you look aggressive. Sitting on the edge of your chair can make you look tense and nervous. Sitting straight will give you an aura of focus and concentration. So sitting straight would be the best option.

Eye contact – For human interaction eye contact is important. Research shows that distracted eye movement or upward movement of the eyes can mean someone is lying or not sure of themselves. What’s true for interviews is also true in every aspect of your life. Knowing how to make good eye contact with others can increase the quality of all of your face-to-face interactions. Be careful halfway through the interview! Research has shown that people find eye contact easy initially and more difficult after becoming familiar with their surroundings or a bond is established between the interviewer and the interviewee.

The right hand gestures – When first meeting the interviewer make sure you greet them with a firm hand shake. This gives the impression that you are confident. During the interview, take your cue from your interviewer. Your hands should be relaxed throughout the interview.

Crossing arms & hands in pocket – Crossing arms can make you look uncooperative and defensive. It is better to fold your hands loosely in your lap so that you look relaxed and comfortable or on the arm rests of the chair. Keep your hands out of your pockets throughout the interview as placing your hands in your pockets can make you look sloppy, passive and uninterested.

Nodding – Nodding occasionally during an interview signals positive reinforcement of what the interviewer is saying. While listening to the interviewer nod in agreement once or twice while maintaining good eye contact, but don’t keep nodding repeatedly.

Control your nerves – Arrive at the interview well in advance. You don’t want to be sweating profusely, arrive red-headed and with a racing pulse. Research the company before attending the interview as this will assist you in answering difficult questions and avoid becoming nervous. 

Smile at the right time – People who smile too much are perceived as submissive and weak. Ideally you want to smile when you first meet the person and shake their hand, when you talk about subjects you are passionate about and at the end of the interview while saying goodbye. 

Have one bag – Research has shown that having one bag looks neat and put-together. Carrying too many bags can make you look as if you are fidgeting.

Make sure you think about using the right body language the minute you enter the interview room. Be friendly and open to everybody in the lift, in the parking lot and at reception. Be aware that body language can vary from one country or culture to the next in terms of what is regarded as acceptable.

Amy Cuddy’s TED talk: Body language shapes who you are can be view at ( 

 Guest Blogger: Michaela Gabriel, Initiate International:


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