YOU SAY NOTHING - AND STILL SPEAK VOLUMES
a job interview, is your body agreeing with what your
mouth is saying? It is imperative that you are aware of
your body language and what it says about you, writes
ABRAHAM LINCOLN famously said, "You can fool
all of the people some of the time; you can fool some
of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all
of the people all of the time." And the reason
why not is, in a nutshell, your body language.
across the world argue as to just how much information
we communicate non-verbally; but put a group of
them in a room together and they will all agree
that we receive very little information merely from
what people say. Somewhere between 10 per cent and
30 per cent of all the information an interviewer
takes on board during a job interview will be as
a result of what you actually say. The rest comes
from your non-verbal cues.
make sure that your body is not disputing what your
mouth is saying. The easiest way to do this is by
telling the truth. This will also ensure that no
one is hiring you under false pretences and you
are likely to be happier (and survive/thrive longer)
on the job. A good rule of thumb for job-hunters
is: If you have to lie to get your foot
in the door, this probably isn't the job for you.
over-riding rule of body language in interviews
for both men and women is that Stillness
Projects Strength. You rarely see a Newsreader
gesturing to camera. You don’t have to sit
like a statue, but make sure you get yourself comfortable
in the chair – with the base of your spine
well against the seat-back – and keep your
non-verbal cues relaxed and open.
Keeping your body language open and relaxed demonstrates
self-assurance. You don’t have to perch nervously
on the edge of your seat to display attentiveness,
but slouching back and placing your hands behind
your neck won’t exactly endear you to the
most settings, your legs will be hidden below the
table, so you can cross and un-cross your legs at
will. If your legs are visible, an ankle cross is
generally deemed acceptable, the typical alpha-male
ankle-to-knee cross is not.
TALK, WHO LISTENS?
famous interview scene in Basic Instinct
in which she left no one in any doubt as to who
was in charge
"What should I do with my hands?"
crossing your arms is a definite and obvious no-no.
Try resting your hands in your lap or leave one
on your leg and the other on the armrest of your
chair (don't grip too tightly!) Play with this until
you find a couple of comfortable positions. Interlacing
your fingers briefly or rubbing your palms slowly
together are usually signs of deep thought; scratching
your head is less acceptable. If you have a notebook
with you, put it on the table. You can hold your
pen, but don't 'fiddle' with it.
Are first impressions - the smile, the
posture, the handshake - meaningless trivial pleasantries
or life-and-death moments? Try doing these badly and see
what you think. The handshake: To crush or not to crush?
Hold the handshake for two or three beats and try and
match the other person's pressure - unless they are obviously
trying to crush your hand, in which case trying to out-macho
an Alpha-male silverback is probably not the smart move.
Maintain eye contact for the handshake until you are aware
of the colour of the other person's eyes.
Don't stare the interviewers down, but
you should talk to them for 66 to 75 per cent of the time
while you are answering. This is more difficult to maintain
in a panel interview setting where you have to sweep back
and forth - your aim is to engage your audience and try
to make everyone feel included.
all sorts of theories about what is going on when you
break eye contact while you are speaking. As a general
rule, a trained interviewer will not be impressed if they
have asked you a fact-based question and you look to your
left. (The inference is that you are drawing on the right
side, the creative side of your brain by doing this -
in other words, you're making your answer up as you go
along.) Most people tend to look to the right when they
are drawing facts out of their memory.
good time to maintain very close eye contact is when they
are asking the question - to ensure that you have picked
it up fully and correctly. You can non-verbally demonstrate
that you are listening as well - head inclined to the
side, a little smile or nod. Be obviously alert and interested
while they are talking. You can back this up verbally
with little "uh-uh" and "mmmm"
noises. Reinforce their impression of your alertness and
intelligence by echoing their language of specific terminology
back at them as the interview progresses - this is particularly
effective when you are asking questions at the end of
Gesticulation rarely accomplishes what
you intend. Be aware of your usual pattern and practise
to get it down to an effective minimum. Occasional, strong
and slow are your watchwords for gesturing.
has a place in interview. You don't have to, nor should
you, jump in straight away with a response to their question.
Also, your voice is a fundamental asset at interview.
It is critical that you use the appropriate words, but
most listeners will take more from how you say it rather
than the micro-specifics of what you say. Exercise your
voice. Practise with different emphases, pauses and pacing.
A little work here can make a huge difference. Pay particular
attention to pace - most candidates speak far too rapidly
lips, stamping feet, playing with jewellery or hair, touching
your nose, leaning suddenly forward to make your point.
Most of us have at least one physical 'tic'. Find yours
and kill them off.
or blowing air out through your pursed lips are indicators
of a problem question that is giving you real pause for
thought. You may want to deliberately give that impression
once or twice, but no more than that.
probably fair to say that very few people relish the idea
of giving an account of themselves in a job interview.
We all experience nervousness and we all manifest it in
different ways. Remember Tigger, the bouncy, flouncy,
pouncy tiger from the Winnie the Pooh stories?
Personally, I don't particularly want to meet Tigger when
I'm interviewing candidates for a management position.
It happens so often: you read the CV and like what you
see; you meet the candidate who is confident and beautifully-turned
out; they sit down and the opening of the interview goes
well; but then you get into some below-the-surface probes
and suddenly, Tigger is in the room!
a well-trained interviewer will find it hard to focus
on what you are saying if your body language is pinging
all over the place. If the overriding rule of body language
is that stillness projects strength, the corollary to
that rule is: if the non-verbal cue does not reinforce
the verbal message, don't use it. The majority of us are
blissfully unaware of our physical presence and its impact
- just look at how people react when they hear themselves
on tape or see themselves on camera for the first time.
"Do I really sound like that?" or
"I don't have that many chins, do I?"
CAREFUL, FUNNY MAY BE A RISKY APPROACH
NORTON: Leave the jokes to the professionals
you use humour or tell jokes in an interview? Using
humour or not depends on the nature of the role
(are you being interviewed for a sales or an undertaker’s
job?), the interviewer’s style and you. Many
candidates use humour out of nervousness, thinking
that it will mask their discomfort.
an entry-level position, you risk coming across
as a smart-Alec or as not taking the process sufficiently
seriously. For a more senior position, you may be
perceived as not having sufficient gravitas. So,
humour can be a very risky approach to take. However,
if the interviewer is adopting a breezy style and
injecting some humour, it may be appropriate for
you to respond in kind.
it will only be a useful tool for you if you have
the ability to use your wit to make your points
more memorable and the ability to closely gauge
the interviewer’s reaction and modify your
approach accordingly. You should look for a meaningful
benefit to any approach that you decide to take
at interview and humour is no exception.
Aware of Your Physical Self
Grab a tolerant friend and a video camera
and tape yourselves having a conversation. Watch the playback
and note body language or phrases that might irritate.
Then do the same for an interview dry-run (this can be
a useful practice for a speech or presentation too). Play
the tape back at high speed and it will reveal any bad
physical habits. You will have to listen very carefully
to spot the verbal ones.
is nothing phoney about practising for an interview -
if you had a spoken part in a play, you would be in rehearsal
for weeks. Getting the unfamiliar language of the interview
flowing smoothly from your mouth takes a lot of practice,
you have to get the lexicon of the interview into your
vocal memory. The greatest public speakers all rehearse
extensively in advance of an important event. If you think
someone is speaking very well 'off the cuff', the likelihood
is they have put a massive amount of work into their speech.
knowledge is power, then self knowledge and an awareness
of how you are perceived in the interview setting is a
vital trump card. Most candidates give a great deal of
thought to how they represent themselves in writing (the
CV) and in person (the interview suit, the hair, the make-up).
Do your homework and start applying that kind of clinical
thinking to the much larger physical representation that
you give of yourself once the interview begins and you
will dramatically increase your chances of success.
Manahan's Where's My Oasis? The Essential Handbook
for Everyone Wanting that Perfect Job is published
by Vermillion (a division of Random House), details: www.fortifyservices.com