The Prepped Team
March 14, 2023
Once you’ve completed your college or university program, finding a job becomes a pressing priority. If you’re like most young adults, you’ve probably been planning for this milestone for months. You might even have been practicing your responses to commonly asked interview questions in your free time.
However, employers often make hiring decisions based on more than just your responses. They also want to assess your enthusiasm, confidence level, and personability. And your body language plays a huge role in getting the right message across. If you’re nervous during your interview (as is normal for recent graduates), your anxiety can subconsciously manifest as negative behavioural or non-verbal cues. Thankfully, with some practice, you can improve your body language and leave a positive impression on the interviewer.
In this article:
Body language is a term that refers to non-verbal cues that form a part of communication. When you’re having a conversation with someone, in person or over a video call, it’s not just your words that matter. Your body language speaks volumes too, and most people consciously or subconsciously read your body language while speaking to you and draw conclusions about your level of interest, honesty, and more.
Body language includes your posture, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and other movements. Although body language is subconscious, with enough practice, you can control or change the non-verbal cues you give an interviewer or listener.
When you’re in an interview, your body language can tell the interviewer a lot about you—even when you’re not speaking. Negative body language like fidgeting, not sitting properly, or avoiding eye contact, can reveal if you’re feeling nervous, anxious, bored, overconfident, or even if you’re lying.
On the other hand, positive body language can tell the interviewer you’re genuinely interested in what they are saying and in the job. It projects the right amount of confidence and garners the interviewer’s trust.
Unfortunately, body language doesn’t always paint an accurate picture. Often, people pick up certain mannerisms or subconscious behaviours that don’t necessarily reflect their feelings at a given moment. When you’re interviewing for your first full-time job, it becomes all the more important to mind your body language, so you don’t inadvertently give the interviewer the wrong impression.
As a recent graduate, it’s absolutely normal to feel nervous or anxious during interviews. However, with a little effort, you can hide your nervousness and ensure that your body language projects confidence. Here are some tips to help you ace your next interview:
Although you want to look your best for interviews, avoid wearing anything you’re uncomfortable in or will need to keep readjusting. If you’re constantly tugging at your sleeve or the hem of your skirt, it’ll be a distraction for both you and the interviewer.
An interview is also not the right time to break in a new pair of shoes, especially if you’re prone to shoe bites and blisters. Ideally, plan your outfit well in advance and try it on to make sure you’re comfortable in those clothes.
If you’re interviewing in person, your evaluation begins as soon as you enter the building. Remember, you don’t know who the decision-maker is, and often, hiring decisions are made based on collective inputs.
Make sure you greet the receptionist and everybody else you see politely and with a smile. If you have to wait for your turn to interview, avoid fidgeting and sit upright in your chair. It can be overwhelming to have to wait a long time before your interview starts, but avoid the urge to keep checking your phone or watch.
Be mindful of your posture as you walk into the interview room. Once you’re in the room, look the interviewer directly in the eye and greet them with a smile and firm handshake. If you’re interviewing virtually, your posture, eye contact, and smile are even more important, because the interviewer can only see your face and shoulders on their screen.
Tip: The interview isn’t over until you are out of the building, so stay professional and polite even as you gather your things, and thank the interviewer before leaving.
It’s important to hold the interviewer’s gaze throughout the interview. (That doesn’t mean staring!) Looking directly at them builds a connection and gives the impression that you’re confident, honest, and interested in what they’re saying.
Avoid looking at the desk, your hands, or other objects in the room while answering questions. If you don’t meet the interviewer’s eye while speaking, it may lead them to believe you’re lying or not confident about what you’re saying.
Open, positive body language such as nodding, tilting your head to the side, and leaning forward slightly when the other person is talking demonstrates your interest in what they have to say. And in an interview, your interest in the interviewer signifies your interest in the company.
For some people, hand movements flow naturally with conversation and that’s okay. Some amount of animation and gesturing shows your personality and passion for what you do. However, you don’t want to be wildly gesticulating while speaking, as it can be very distracting for the interviewer. Nor do you want to be anxiously tapping your knee, repeatedly touching your face or hair, or fidgeting.
Keeping your arms crossed in front of you is a big no-no, as it conveys distrust or disinterest. Ideally, you should keep your arms positioned loosely by your side or in your lap in a relaxed manner. If you tend to fidget, fold your hands on top of each other or interlace your fingers to limit involuntary movement.
In an interview setting, it’s important to appear confident (even if you’re feeling nervous) and your posture says a lot about your confidence level. Fixing poor posture can be tricky, but if you’re conscious about the way you sit and hold yourself, you can still exude confidence during your interview.
Be sure to sit upright (it’s okay to lean towards the interviewer slightly) and keep your body relaxed, with your feet firmly on the floor and your knees pointing in the direction of the interviewer. If you’re more comfortable with your legs crossed, make sure the leg positioned on your knee is angled downwards, not perpendicular to the floor.
Slouching in your chair can be perceived as a sign of underconfidence, boredom or a mix of the two. On the other hand, sitting up too stiffly can make you come across as unapproachable, unfriendly, arrogant, or anxious.
Before entering the interview room, take several deep breaths to calm your nerves. Usually, when people get nervous, they tend to take shallow breaths and talk fast. So, if you find yourself speaking too fast or becoming breathless while answering questions, slow down and take a second to breathe. Breathing deeply evens out your heart rate and helps you relax.
Getting your body language just right can be challenging because, often, you’re unaware of the physical mannerisms you demonstrate. So how do you fix what you don’t know?
Here’s a tip: during practice sessions, record yourself while speaking and make note of any patterns in your behaviour or movements. Then, consciously try to correct them if the next practice session.
You can also use the Prepped AI Interviewer tool to record your responses while practicing. This handy tool even gives you feedback on your pacing, energy, facial expressions, and use of filler words, so you can go to your interview thoroughly prepared.
Not all non-verbal communication is about body language. Sometimes, you may be giving an interviewer a wrong signal through other types of behaviour, even before or after the actual interview. Here are some non-verbal mistakes to avoid for your next interview:
Although it’s always polite to be punctual, it’s absolutely essential for interviews. Arriving late (or joining a video call late) shows that you don’t care enough to be on time and, consequently, that you aren’t invested in the outcome of the interview.
The impression you leave on the interviewer may be as someone who’s not particularly concerned about timelines or who doesn’t respect other people’s time.
Dressing professionally doesn’t always mean business formal. Your attire should be carefully chosen based on the company culture (ideally one level above what people there normally wear to work). Not dressing appropriately for the company you’re interviewing with can show disinterest, lack of research about the company culture, or arrogance.
No matter the role you’re applying for, employers want to know you’re careful and can pay attention to detail. Carelessness or absent-mindedness are not traits you want to exhibit during your first interaction with the hiring manager. Be sure to take all your belongings with you after the interview is over, so you don’t have to come back to collect them.
One advantage of virtual interviews (besides the fact that you can do them from the comfort of your own home) is that your body is only partially visible to the interviewer. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to mind your body language. Communicating non-verbally can be trickier in virtual settings since there’s more scope for misinterpretation.
Many of the points in the above sections apply both in the in-person and virtual setting, but here are some additional tips to help you impress the interviewer during a virtual interview:
Reading the interviewer’s non-verbal cues can help you assess how your interview is going, and in some cases, can be an opportunity to improve its outcome. Here are some body language signs to watch out for during the interview:
Although it’s always a good idea to keep track of the interviewer’s body language, negative non-verbal signs aren’t always a reason to worry. The interviewer’s body language can sometimes be deceptive. For instance, some interviewers use the stress interview approach and purposely send signals of disinterest through their body language to try to make interviewers nervous. However, watching the interviewer’s non-verbal cues can help you retain their interest and impress them with your responses.
As a new graduate, landing your first job requires preparation. Whether you’re crafting your resume, practicing your responses or watching your body language, we’re here to help. Sign up for Prepped for access to tools like our AI Interviewer and ATS Resume Scanner which will improve your chances of impressing employers and getting a job.