Last time, we discussed candidate body language and why it is important in the interviewing process. We discussed posture, focus and the hand shake. Today we will finish our discussion of this important subject.
Demonstrate confidence, openness and enthusiasm with correct hand gestures and arm positioning. The way your arms are positioned says a lot about your state of mind and attitude. The right hand gestures convey much of what you are trying to convey to the interviewer. Let your hands help you express feelings, needs and convictions, without going over-the-top.
There are three categories of hand gestures. “Emblematic” gestures are a signal of unspoken, mutually understood meaning, such as raising the fingers to the lips to imply “quiet”. “Pacifier” gestures, such as burying the head in the hands, are used to relieve stress.
The gestures you want to use in an interview are the “Illustrative” gestures. These gestures develop simultaneous speech and help the speaker find the right words to make the messages and thoughts more emphatic and precise.
There are several types of hand and arm gestures that often say more than words ever can. Supine palms, facing up, imply a lack of something that the speaker needs or is requesting. Supine at a 45° tilt imply candor and openness. Prone palms, facing down, signal power and certainty. The Steeple, fingers intertwined with the index fingers outstretched and touching, express confidence and expertise. The “fig leaf”, with hands grasped together in front of the groin, communicates a state of being closed-off and distrusting.
Rigid hands can emphasize certain, important words. Hiding the hands can come across as you being untrustworthy. Hands touching the face, head, or hair impart nervousness, vulnerability or tentativeness.
Arm gestures above your shoulders broadcast a person being erratic and overly emotional. Arms held at waist height, however, express centeredness and composure. Keep your arms open as a sign of inclusion. Arms crossed over your chest say you’re closed-off, unapproachable and defensive.
Place your hands on the table, if you are sitting at one, or on your lap in front of you. Don’t keep your hands in your lap or sitting on the table through the entire interview. You will come across unenthusiastic. Use your Illustrative hand gestures.
Keep your hands at chest-level or below and use moderate arm movements to help you express yourself.
If you flail your arms about while speaking, you will look uncontrollable, unbelievable and powerless. Rubbing head or neck will make you look disinterested and rubbing or touching your nose displays dishonesty.
Convey a solid self-confidence with the way you position your legs and feet. Your stance and positioning of your feet say a lot about your self-confidence. Sit with legs at a right angle and feet firmly planted on the floor. Stand with legs slightly parted and knees relaxed. That says “I’m solid and sure of myself.”
Crossing the legs during the interview has you appear too relaxed. Locking your ankles tightly together or around the legs of the chair demonstrates non-communication and disengagement. So does pointing your feet toward the door. Shuffling the feet indicates nervousness and discomfort. Bouncing the heels up and down is a sign of nervousness or over-excitement. Standing with your feet too close together says you are hesitant and insecure.
Men and women differ in their body language, speech and perception.
Women are more comfortable with being approached from the front and will stand in a more squared position. They nod when they agree, are listening, empathizing with the speaker or encouraging them to continue. Women recognize good listening skills as using a lot of eye contact and reacting visually. They also maintain a closer physical distance to everyone, including someone they just met, and use touch to signal agreement, sympathy, compassion, connection and celebration. Women often condense their physical space by keeping their elbows by their sides and sometimes stand with their legs close together as they cross one knee over the other. More emotional than men, women raise their voices when under stress and use five different vocal tones when speaking. Because they tend to be more expressive, women use more facial expressions and translate the lack of facial expressions in others as negative feedback, which promotes anxiety. Women tend to smile more than men and are judged as pretty, feminine, shallow and unintelligent when they have breathy, tense voices.
Men, on the other hand, prefer approaches from the side. Two men speaking will angle their bodies slightly. Men typically nod only when they are in agreement and recognize good listening skills as minimal eye contact and almost no nonverbal feedback. They tend to keep a great distance between those they don’t know and see touching as being motivated by power. Men expand in their own physical space by sprawling, sitting with their legs spread wide open, or widely crossed, and stretching their arms on the back of a chair next to them. They also expand their work space by spreading their materials around their office or all over a conference table. Men’s voices have deeper vocal ranges and they use only three vocal tones when speaking. They minimize facial expressions, which often causes uneasiness in others and they also express their anger nonverbally. They tend to quickly expel anger with physical bursts of energy, such as hitting a table. Men often keep their legs apart at 10° to 15° angles, in a more open and relaxed stance and emphasize stature, composure and confidence with body language. They are also judged as mature, masculine and intelligent if they have throaty, tense voices.
The thing men and women have in common is they smile when they are genuinely happy, amused, or when it is socially acceptable to do so.
The important points are to make and keep eye contact, smile, hone a great handshake, show confidence, and express and sell yourself.
More importantly, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. And when you’re done with that, PRACTICE some more.
Over the years, the biggest difference between candidates who did well in the interviewing process and those that didn’t came down to practicing.
At least once a week, I have candidates tell me things like, “I know how to interview… it’s no big deal… I’m really good at it, etc.” and then they get into the interview and they blow it.
To be successful interviewing, you’ve got to practice!
Good luck to you!