According to Michael Kelly of Kelly Speech Communications, any gesture or mannerism we use to express a non-verbal message can be considered body language. Chin jutting, shoulder shrugging, arm-swinging, head tilting, even eye blinking – they all fit the profile. Body language is used to express our conscious or subconscious thoughts, and can be as subtle as a sidewards glance – or as obvious as a slap in the face.
So how can you fine-tune your body language for success?
Before your next job interview, ask a friend to identify any potentially distracting habits you may have such as playing with your hair or drumming your fingers. You may be surprised to learn about behaviour you weren’t aware of.
Next, stage a mock job interview with a friend and video it. “Viewing your body language as other people do is a valuable experience,” says Kelly. “But if you want to gain more self-awareness, an intense questioning session with a friend is useful for noting any negative body language that occurs under pressure, such as foot-bouncing or lip-biting.”
And if that’s not enough to give you an air of self-assurance, Kelly says that observing confident people and modelling their open, friendly and accepting cues can also help you create a winning perception. Additionally, learning by example increases the likelihood that your actions will be read as you intend them to be, and decreases your risk of sending mixed messages.
When it comes to the job interview itself, Kelly recommends creating instant rapport with the interviewer by being sensitive to their body position or pose, and adapting your movements, breathing patterns and expressions accordingly. But if you find yourself forgetting your words, concentrate more on yourself. Maintaining good eye contact will also help impart trust and understanding: a steady gaze that conveys alertness, interest and confidence, without too little or too much focus, is a great choice.
Bear in mind that swaying, fiddling, and face touching can all threaten job interview success, so place one hand on your waist and gesture with the other to control any nervousness. And keep your spare hand free, as playing with unneeded pens or papers will only betray your jitters.
Finally, the perfect handshake, like most body language, is all about finding a happy medium that you’re comfortable with. “A cool hand, firm grasp, two palm-to-palm pumps and good eye contact will create just the right impression,” says Kelly.