Mastering the Body Language During an Interview
Why is it that one can look at a lion or a planet or an owl or at someone's finger as long as one pleases, but looking into the eyes of another person is, if prolonged past a second, a perilous affair? -Walker Percy, author (1916-1990)
- Be relaxed and breathe deeply before beginning an interview. Some nervousness actually helps you be energized for a good interview. Use this energy to your advantage. Deep breathing also dispels any feeling of fear or apprehension you may have during this process
- Shake hands firmly and make eye contact with the interviewer. Smile and keep smiling as they start their conversation. Do not look bewildered or puzzled as they talk to you. During my video practice interview session most clients are surprised when they see themselves on the screen looking anxious, bewildered, and tense. A simple smile and a confident look dispel this energy.
- Once you settle down, take another deep breath—without sighing—and keep a faint smile on your face and continue that as long as you can. When a question is asked, before responding, pause for a second or two and then formulate your answer in a thoughtful way. In most cases you must have a crisp 30-second answer to the dreaded Tell me about yourself question.
- When responding keep looking at the interviewer without staring at them. Use eye contact to connect with the interviewer without making them feel uncomfortable. You know this by their looking away as you look at them.
- Use both hands and respond without being voluble, or displaying exaggerated gestures. Use of the overall body in an appropriate way amplifies your message if done correctly. Incorrect body language that is not in synch with your verbal message can confuse the person and limit your ability to make an impact. So, practice how to use the body language in synch with your words you deliver. This requires some practice, but is an easily learned skill. Watch TV commercial spots and observe how the characters deliver the short message with the right body language.
- Engage in a dialog, not an interrogation. If you jump in and start asking good questions right from the get-go you have a much better chance of engaging in a dialog than in an interrogation. I often use the machine gun/tennis racket metaphor. Most go with a “machine gun” firing away their answers to the questions asked. A tennis racked allows you to play tennis in a back-and-forth exchange. This also reduces your “air time” by half. A good thing!
- Observe the body language of the interviewer and if you spot them shooting signals that do not synch up with their words, call on them with a question or clarification: “It seems that what I just told you about this project has puzzled you somewhat, let me explain what I am talking about here.” You make this comment after observing their furrowed brow. Often, people are impressed by your ability to read their body language and by your calling them on it. Be confident when you do this. Smiling here will further help you.
- Take charge of the interview by asking questions that are important to you and for you to make the decision about working there. Often, candidates just surrender to the interview process and let the interviewer drive the process. Remember, the interviewer is often as anxious and nervous as you are. So, use that to your advantage!
- Before concluding the interview ask what the next steps are. Repeat what you heard so that you can get clarity on the timeline and their take on what just happened in the interview. If they are positive and enthusiastic then assertively drive to a close by saying, I really would like to be a part of your team and am interested in joining you as a Project Manager. I hope that you choose me to come on board. There is something compelling about asking them to hire you this way!
- Send a great Thank-you note and briefly explain any points that need further clarity and ask to be hired the same way you expressed in #9.