Ok, so you think you got this down. YOU DON”T…Most candidates never deal with this thought and they should. So, pay attention!
Candidate Body Language in the interview is extremely important. People form an opinion of you in the first seven seconds of the meeting and your body language says a lot. One study from McGill University in the 1960s found that people decide to hire you, or not, in the first FOUR minutes of an interview. There is little evidence to challenge that study even today.
According to Careerbuilder.com, some hiring Managers claim they can spot a possible candidate for a job in 30 seconds or less. Your body language sets the stage.
Why is it important? Looking for a job is emotionally stressful. Most people are very nervous when it comes to interviewing and when people are nervous their body language usually reflects their nervousness. Lack of eye contact, not smiling, a weak handshake and poor posture, along with other issues we will address here, can kill an interview. It will eliminate you as a candidate no matter how good your talent, experience or professional abilities might be.
Here is a perfect example. We recently had an excellent candidate who had 20 years of business project consulting experience, both selling and leading the consulting projects after they were sold. One of the country’s most elite business consulting organizations was interested in hiring him. They were anxious to hire, but they were very, very picky. They already interviewed and eliminated 28 candidates. Their procedure was to have a candidate do telephone interviews with five or six of the partners from around the country before traveling to their corporate office for face-to-face and final interviews.
All of the 28 other candidates were eliminated after two or three of the telephone interviews. Our candidate was not only successful in passing the five very difficult phone interviews with the partners, but one of the VPs told us that he was the best candidate they had spoken to in a year and he couldn’t wait to get the guy to corporate to “get him hired”. The candidate was likewise thrilled and talking about all of the success that he would have with the firm.
He flew to the corporate office late one afternoon and prepared for his first meeting with the CEO early the next morning. The meeting with the CEO lasted a whole 15 minutes. The CEO told the candidate after about 12 minutes into the interview that he was not what the company was looking for. The CEO thanked him for his time and the candidate then flew back to Dallas. The candidate was devastated. He was perfect for the job and every one of the partners as well as the VP with whom he had spoken over the phone thought so too.
Here is what happened. The candidate arrived at the CEOs office 15 minutes early, just as he should. He didn’t smile and was not warm to the CEOs administrator… he didn’t even say anything much beyond, “I’m here to see the CEO.” He was not dressed appropriately. Although he did wear a suit, his striped shirt and polka dot tie were totally mismatched (… according to the CEO). When he walked into the CEOs office, he walked slowly with no authority or energy. He did not initiate a handshake and when the CEO did, he gave the CEO a limp handshake… and his sweaty palms didn’t help. Again, he didn’t smile and he did not look the CEO in the eye. According to the CEO, he slumped down in his chair, crossed his legs and gazing down, almost looking at his own shoes, asked the CEO, “What would you like to know?”
The conversation, according to the CEO, was stilted and lethargic. The candidate continued to slump in his chair, with his eyes darting around the office. His speech came across very slow and tentative. There were long, pensive pauses before he answered the CEOs questions and no animation or enthusiasm in his gestures or his speech. The decisive CEO decided they were not going to hire our candidate and saw no reason to prolong the “pain.” What should have been a day of interviewing resulting in a formal offer of $180,000, which had already been discussed, ended with the candidate leaving empty-handed.
The candidate admitted that he had not interviewed in a very long time. He hadn’t practiced interviewing and, in spite of the fact he had 20 solid years of experience, he really wasn’t prepared for the interview. He said that the CEO’s office and CEO were rather intimidating and, that early in the morning, he wasn’t prepared. He had lots of excuses…he hadn’t gone to the cleaners and gotten the appropriate shirts…his plane arrived at 1 am in the morning because of weather delays and he was tired…and he just didn’t think it was fair to start out speaking with the CEO that early in the morning. His body language cost him the job. The CEO said that he couldn’t imagine the candidate making a good impression with the CEOs, CIOs and COOs of the Fortune 500 firms they sell to.
So here is a primer on candidate body language:
Prepare yourself before you walk in the door for an interview. Stand up straight, with your shoulders back, head held high, with a smile on your face. Blow your nose, adjust your apparel, touch up your makeup or hair, silence your cell phone and put it away. Raise your eyebrows to widen your eyes, make you look more awake and give you a friendlier expression. This expression and body-posture tells your audience you are confident and comfortable with what you’re selling – YOU.
Look people in the eye and smile with your eyes. This means from the Receptionist or Assistant who greets you, to the hiring authority and anyone else you may be introduced to. A helpful way to make eye contact is to take note of the other person’s eye color. It will help you stay focused and engaged.
Keep your eyes focused on theirs in a friendly manner, “smiling” with your eyes. Staring at them blankly will make you appear “distant” and not present in the moment. If you look down you’ll seem submissive or dishonest. Looking around the room or away from them will make you come across as nervous and uninterested.
You must initiate a great handshake. The handshake is the most familiar and traditional of business gestures and makes a lasting impression. You develop an immediate and positive connection with someone from touching their hands.
Step forward slightly and reach out YOUR hand to the other person, with your palm facing sideways. Make sure you make full contact with the web of your hand to the other person’s hand. Press firmly in the handshake to “affirm” the gesture as being genuine. Shake with your right hand and, if your left hand is empty, touch the other’s right arm with it to re-affirm the sincerity of the gesture. Keep that smile on your face while maintaining the eye and hand contact. Introduce yourself by name if this is your first meeting. Follow that by saying, “It’s great to meet you” or “I’m so glad to be here, thanks so much for seeing me.” It’s not recommended you hug them, no matter how well you know them.
Hold the other person’s hand a second longer than you normally would. This conveys additional sincerity and quite literally “hones” the other person’s attention when you exchange greetings. Honor their personal space by keeping a distance of a minimum of 20” between the two of you.
Don’t lose hand contact during the introduction. If your palms are sweaty, wipe them off right before you meet the other person. If you shake with a “limp grip” you’ll be perceived as indecisiveness or weak. Shake with firmness and confidence.
Briefly mirror the other person’s body postures, gestures and expressions. Mirroring builds the ability to influence other people to think like you. It also leads them to experience the same emotions you are experiencing or expressing. Mirroring the interviewer’s posture, just briefly, will have them connect with you and follow your posture. You only want to mirror someone long enough to get them to begin to mirror you.
Mirror the other person for about one or two minutes before gradually changing your body’s language to proper interviewing posture. Do this in a subtle manner so you don’t look like you’re mocking or mimicking the other person. The idea is to mirror them so they will then follow you and mirror you. As you move into your own, professional posture, start being more animated, energetic, passionate and enthusiastic – this will lead the other person into energy and enthusiasm.
Don’t mirror the other person beyond a minute or two or go overboard when you move into your own posture and become more animated and enthusiastic. Maintain decorum and control. Don’t worry if they don’t adopt your amount of enthusiasm and mirror you completely – they will still see it in you, and identify with you.
Proper upper body posture is essential to making a good impression. Position your shoulders and torso toward the interviewer. Good posture has you appear interested, engaged, and ready to interact and will most likely compel the interviewer to mirror you.
Orienting your body away from someone conveys detachment or disengagement, regardless of the words spoken. Facing your body towards the door assumes you can’t wait to get out of there.
Sit up straight, with shoulders back, and torso squarely faced toward the other person. Lean slightly forward in the chair to show eagerness and attention.
Don’t slouch down as it will have you appear disinterested or unprepared. If you recline with your shoulders back against the chair and your legs outstretched or crossed in front of you, you’ll appear too relaxed and lazy. Whatever you do, don’t lean back with your hands behind your head. It’s a sign of arrogance.
More next time!