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​It’s not just what you say: Consider your body language

31/05/2016 Sophie

Let’s say you have submitted an apprenticeship application and have been invited to attend an interview. Besides researching the company’s products and services as well as deciding upon an appropriate outfit, your primary concern is probably what questions you will be asked and how to answer them.

However, nonverbal communication is arguably just as important. In fact, the common expression “it’s not what you say, it’s what you do” is particularly pertinent when it comes to interviews. So, what are some body language dos and don’ts?

Do - Make a confident entrance

In many respects, the interview process starts before you meet your prospective employer, as Alison Craig, image consultant and author of Hello Job! How to Psych Up, Suit Up & Show Up explains: “You don't know who could be in the parking lot with you, looking at you from a window or standing next to you in the elevator. Your body should tell anyone who might be watching that you're confident and calm. It's not the time to be frantically searching through your portfolio for printouts of your resume.”

Don’t - Get your phone out while waiting

Whenever most people have got a few minutes to spare, they will probably get out their smartphone to check emails or browse social media. However, you should resist the urge to do this while waiting for your interview, as you could come across as apathetic or uninterested in the position. Instead, look over your CV and application once again, picking up on aspects that would impress the employer. If there are any company publications or promotional materials nearby, take a look at these as well to demonstrate an interest in the business but also to do some more swatting up.

Do - Make eye contact

From the moment you are introduced to when you shake hands and leave, always make eye contact with the interviewer. If you are faced by a panel of interviewers, be sure to make eye contact with all of them, addressing the person who asked the question first before glancing at everybody else when answering. Eye contact shows that you are paying attention to what is
being said, are engaged with the interview process, and have faith in your responses. Try to avoid staring blankly at your interviewers though, as this won’t give off the right impression.

Don’t - Slouch in your chair

It is important to feel relaxed during an interview because your responses will come across a lot more natural. But you must remember that it is still a very formal process, which means you can’t afford to hunch forward or slouch in your chair. “Elongating your legs or throwing your arm across the back of the chair can make you appear too comfortable, even arrogant,” says Mark Bowden, author of Winning Body Language. Therefore, try to keep a perfect posture throughout, sit up straight, and even use your hands to convey a point.

Do - Smile and nod where appropriate

Knowing when to smile or laugh can be difficult due to formal nature of most interviews. However, look for clues from the interviewer and mirror their positive body language to establish a connection. Smiling shows that you have a personality in addition to
professionalism and proficiency. It also indicates your passion, enthusiasm, and enjoyment for the position as well as any previous work examples.

Don’t – Give the interviewer a death grip handshake

Something as simple as a handshake can leave a lasting impression on the interviewer. What’s more, an overly aggressive “death grip” can be just as off-putting as a limp and lifeless handshake. So, attempt to strike the right balance between firm and friendly. Bowden says that offering your hand to the interviewer with the palm slightly up is “a sign that you are giving them status,” because their hand will cover yours. This means you shouldn’t use your other hand to then cover theirs either, as this can be interpreted as a sign of domination.