Got a job interview coming up? You can run through practice questions until your tongue goes numb, select the perfect Olivia Pope-meets-Alicia Florrick outfit and send out a Pulitzer Prize-worthy thank you note. But if your body language doesn’t convey the right message, you’re undermining all of your efforts.
“There are two conversations going on in any interview,” says Dr. Carol Goman, keynote speaker and author of The Silent Language of Leaders. “The verbal exchange and the nonverbal exchange. When your body reflects something different from your words, people will believe your body.”
Utilize these tips in your next interview to make sure your body language says, “Hire me.”
1. Strike a power pose
This may sound a little strange, but hear us out: Arrive at the interview early, and head to the bathroom. Once you’re in a stall, spend two minutes standing as though you were Superwoman: feet apart, hands on your hips. “Research shows that this increases testosterone, which makes you feel more confident, and decreases the stress hormone cortisol,” says Goman.
2. Read the paper, not your phone
While you’re waiting in the foyer to be called in, your impulse is probably to whip out your cell phone to check your messages or scroll through your Facebook feed. But doing so will completely wipe out the benefits of your power pose. “When you hunch over your phone, with your chest caved in and your shoulders rounded, your cortisol levels increase and testosterone starts to drop,” says Goman.
A better idea? Pick up a newspaper on your way in, and look at that instead. “Your body naturally expands while you’re holding a paper, and your back and neck are straight,” says Goman. This helps you retain all those confidence-boosting benefits of the power pose you just did.
3. Flash the right kind of smile
Research from the University of Glasgow finds that it takes just 200 milliseconds for your brain to interpret someone’s facial expression and make a judgment call about them. “If you have the slightest frown of doubt or worry when you walk through that door, the hiring manager is going to pick up on it,” says Goman. So before your interviewer walks into the room, consciously choose your countenance.
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She suggests starting with a subtle smile that broadens once you see the interviewer. “A small smile that grows is the most engaging because it suggests that your happiness is in response to the other person,” says Goman.
4. Perfect your handshake
“Touch is the most primitive and powerful nonverbal cue,” says Goman. Use a firm shake, and look your interviewer in the eye.
“Eye contact is like Goldilocks and the three bears—you want just the right amount,” says Goman. “Don’t give her a stalker stare, of course, but many people’s eyes tend to slide off, which gives the impression you have something to hide.” She advises holding the hiring manager’s gaze long enough to register their eye color.
Finally, be sure to name drop. “There is one word that we love above all others: Our own name,” says Goman. “When we hear it, our brain’s reward center lights up.” So when you say, “I’m very glad to meet you, Suzanne,” while shaking hands, you have linked your touch with something positive in the other person’s brain, which is very powerful.
5. Talk with your hands
Gesturing helps with speech production. “That’s why we still tend to move our hands even when we’re on the telephone,” says Goman. It powers up your thinking and helps remove fillers (um, like, uh) from your presentation.
Just remember to keep your movements relaxed. If your hands are erratic, you’ll appear out of control. Also, avoid self-pacifying gestures, like twiddling a ring, playing with your hair, rubbing your hands together and touching your face. “Those are dead giveaways that you’re nervous,” says Goman. “If you catch yourself doing any of these, rest your hands on your lap for a moment to re-center.”
6. Don’t minimize yourself
“Studies from Harvard and Columbia have found that women tend to condense their bodies—we sit with our legs crossed or tightly together and our arms close to our sides,” says Goman. “As a result, you look small, like less than you are.” Not exactly the confident vibe you’re probably going for.
“What you do with your body affects how you feel in the same way that your mood can affect how you hold your body,” says Goman. So instead of shrinking, rest your arms on the arms of the chair and keep your feet firmly planted on the floor—you’ll look and feel more grounded. Leaning forward slightly in your seat shows that you’re interested and enthusiastic.
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7. Be a mirror
To forge a closer connection, try subtly mimicking the hiring manager’s actions, recommends Goman. For example, if she clasps her hands in her lap and tilts her head to one side, wait a beat or two, and then clasp your hands and tilt your head. This activates “mirror neurons,” a type of brain cell that fires when we feel empathy, so you’ll be more in sync. “On an unconscious level, it sends her the message that you’re kindred spirits,” says Goman. “It also helps you understand what she’s feeling, which can give you an edge in the interview.”