We've all heard that our non-verbal communication is as important as what we're actually saying - possibly even more so. This is particularly true for already highly stressful situations like job interviews, where we are being assessed (not always consciously) on everything about us from the moment we enter the room or join the video call. The good news is that there are some simple ways we can convey the right messages in our non-verbal communication. Here are our top tips.
(Quick side note: if your interview is on the phone or over video call, you might like to take a look at our blog on preparing for this very specific style of meeting.)
1. Choose your clothes carefully
Often your outfit will be the first thing that gets noticed and it's a relatively easy thing to get right. Dress smartly, appropriately and professionally. The interview dress code might depend on your industry (have a look at our blog on this very topic) - we know most tech or creative companies don't expect to see candidates in suits, but other sectors and roles might. If you're not sure, you can just ask us (or whichever agency you're going through) - we have all the inside knowledge on this kind of thing! If you're applying directly, we suggest you err on the side of caution - it's always better to be too smart than too casual. Think about accessories too - shoes, jewellery, bags and whatever you choose to bring your CV and notes in (a portfolio, notebook or tablet). One last word of advice - be comfortable! It will do you no favours if you're distracted by an itchy shirt or slowly getting blisters from new shoes.
2. Sit with confidence
Whether you're in person or on a video call, the way you sit on your chair will send a lot of signals. You should sit all the way to the back, rather than perching or sitting at an angle - and make sure your back is upright. It's an automatic sign of confidence and assurance and will immediately tell the interview panel that you're capable and prepared. If you have a tendency to slouch, imagine there's a piece of string pulling you up from the top of your head - it might feel a bit weird, but it won't look it (we promise!).
3. Use your hands
Sometimes when we're nervous, our instinct is to limit our hand gestures (or even to sit on them!) to cover up our anxiety. In fact, a lot of interview guides suggest you should do this to avoid any off-putting limb-flailing. But all this actually does is inhibit your verbal communication and, to some people, it's interpreted as distrustful. Most interviewers (and scientific research) say that hand gestures help to effectively communicate emphasis, enthusiasm and gravitas - so we say go for it! Here's a handy (excuse the pun) little trick - show your palms. One of the reasons we shake hands is to show our palms, which communicates positivity and trustworthiness (honestly! It's science!). So whilst we wouldn't suggest you plop your hands down on the table with your palms upwards for the duration of the interview, it's worth being aware of which direction your palms are facing when you gesture naturally in a conversation.
4. The art of eye contact
How can something so simple be so complicated? You might notice how aware of your own eye contact you become when you're talking to someone for a long time, especially if you don't know them well. How many times have you lost the thread of what they're saying because you're wondering if you've been staring at them too intently? We've all been there - and interviews are the worst for bringing out the eye contact anxiety! So, the trick is to focus on 'face contact' instead (disclaimer: not in a physical sense; please don't touch their faces). Flit between their eyes, forehead, nose and mouth so you're not looking away, but you're also not drilling them with a relentless death stare.
5. Keep both feet on the ground
Literally and metaphorically, this is a good idea. Not only does it ground us physically to our environment (which can be reassuring and comforting in an interview situation), but it's also scientifically proven to improve our ability to go between creative thought and complex rational thought (yes, really). Evidence suggests that it's much harder to answer difficult questions or solve intricate problems without both feet on the floor - now THAT'S a handy tip for an interview, isn't it?
6. Practice active listening
We can be very focused on what we're doing when we're talking in an interview, but might not be so aware of how we come across as a listener. The 'face contact' rule of eye contact comes into play here too, especially as we tend to look more at a person who is talking to us than a person who is listening. But employing active listening skills is very helpful - nodding your head at appropriate moments; making 'listening noises' that show you're in agreement (like 'uh huh' or 'I see') are usually appropriate in the UK, but don't always translate in other cultures; parking the 'inner conversation' you're having with yourself ('I wonder how I'm doing in this interview?', 'I hope I'm making the right amount of eye contact', 'I'm going to treat myself to a takeaway tonight', etc.) and focusing fully on what is being said. These things all work wonders for communicating attentiveness and positivity (and not just in interviews!).
Never underestimate the power of a smile. It's the best way to communicate our ease, confidence and personability, and it's easy enough to fake if we're not feeling those things. Everyone comes away from a meeting with a person who smiled a lot feeling positive about themselves and the other person. Which can only be a good feeling to leave them with after an interview.
We have a handy infographic on preparing for an interview, and we're always here for any advice and support. You can reach us on 01932 355000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're not currently at the interview stage of your job search, you might like to check out our current vacancies or give us a call to discuss how we can help.