The Importance of Body Language and image in the Interview Process

Did you know that Body Language (non-verbal signals) are approximately five times as effective as the spoken word? And that visual ‘first impressions’ make the biggest contribution to an interviewer making their mind up either positively or negatively about you, usually within the first five minutes.

This is what makes your attention to detail about your ‘image management’ vital to your success. Everything from your entry into reception to how you engage in conversation with recruiters and potential employers is being subconsciously and consciously evaluated. This is why it is important to project yourself confidently, with a positive tone. Not brashly, not arrogantly, but by being prepared (researched), appearing interested and upbeat about the role and meeting the interviewer. The interview should not be viewed as a trial, but as a chance for a pleasant mutual information transfer.

Initial interviewer impressions include: your entrance, handshake, eye contact and physical appearance. All of these facets comprise the impression you will make, and can often convey a stronger message than what you actually say. Because once a bad impression is made the interviewer is likely to tune out or look to closing down the interview early. Your job here is to make a strong early connection with the interviewer so they want to listen to you and put you forward.

Job Interviews – The Components to Success

The components that an interviewer makes judgments on when first meeting someone includes, but is not limited to:

  • Posture
  • Eye contact
  • Personal Grooming
  • Clothes
  • Body Language
  • Your Posture

Confidence is projected when you walk tall with your head up and shoulders back. At all costs, avoid ‘programmer’s slouch’ from days spent hunched in front of a computer. Exercise and a healthy life-balance contribute long term to great posture and well being. However, in the short term even the healthiest candidates, if feeling particularly intimated, will need to check that they are maintaining a good posture.

Ideally your posture should embody a confident and friendly entrance into the reception and continue when you are greeted by the interviewer. During the interview, sit up straight with your bottom into the back of the chair. This will ensure good posture and project interest and alertness. You may wish to lean forward at certain stages during the conversation, but avoid taking up the interviewer’s ‘personal space’ or appearing too eager or even desperate. Again it’s a fine line that only practice will help you to get ‘right’.

Eye Contact

Maintain comfortable eye contact throughout the interview. Looking directly at the person you are speaking to is interpreted as a gesture of interest, trust and confidence, so ensure that this is done throughout the interview – about 80% of the time. It is noted that when people are asked to recall work examples there is a natural tendency for them to look down or up as they process the request. Make sure that after you have accessed your (well practiced) example that you remember to return to your natural eye contact during the re-telling.

Additionally, you can use a nod of the head to indicate understanding and agreement. It is advisable to smile your way through most of the interview – which will have the natural effect of putting the interviewer and yourself at ease.

Shy people may find it difficult to maintain a long eye contact and may even try to over-compensate. It should be noted that coming up with the equivalent of a ‘death stare’ is equally distracting. Natural eye contact, smiling, good posture and the confident ‘body language’ suggestions below only improve with practice.

Job Interviews – Personal Grooming

Grooming usually involves all the things that your mother told you about. Such things as a neat hair, clean facial hair (men), clean finger nails, use of deodorant etc. For women light make-up with natural lipstick shades, and light or no perfume work best. Ideally clean your teeth before the interview so that your breath will smell fresh. Another option is to eat breath mints before the interview. Under no circumstances should you be either chewing gum or have a mint in your mouth during the interview.

For cigarette smokers, please ensure that your clothes and hair do not smell of cigarettes, as this can be a real negative with employers

Remember to give yourself plenty of time before the interview to attend to your hair, cool down or touch up. It is advisable that you have a practice run to reach the interview place on time. On the day of the interview, leave for the interview early to ensure there is plenty of spare time should a delay occur. This will reduce the chance of you looking and feeling flustered during the all important beginning of the interview.

Interview Attire

It is important that you pay particular attention to appropriate clothing attire. The general rule in the IT industry (at least for the interview) is to dress conservatively and professionally. For men, a well maintained modern suit with a conservative tie is ideal. Avoid all loud colours and distracting patterns. Plain colour shirts, colour-matched ties and dark suits work best. Attention to detail such as wearing black polished business shoes and plain dark socks is also recommended.

Unless you are a colour-coordination expert, dress on the side of conservatism. Remember that recruiters assess candidates for a living and can quickly assess inappropriate business attire. Do not make the mistake of distracting the interviewer with obvious fashion mistakes – anything that is loud, old or out of place could count against you.

Women have more options regarding appropriate interview dress. This can include many variations of colours, skirt or pants etc. But again the general safest rule is to think ‘corporate’. Overall, all candidates are advised to dress appropriately as discussed above, as well as for confidence and comfort. Essentially something that includes these factors and makes you feel good is ideal!

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