Could your body language be scuppering your chances of being offered a new role? That’s something that came up when I was discussing a candidate’s job interview with a client recently. On paper the structural engineering candidate looked like a great fit, his phone interview saw him shortlisted immediately for a face-to-face, but having met the candidate in person, my client wasn’t so sure.
“I don’t think they have the right attitude for this role, I’m not sure they’re a good cultural fit for our company.”
The candidate had proven himself in other roles. He was certainly motivated, a high achiever, and had helped his previous employers deliver high quality projects on a similar level to what my client required. Culturally I couldn’t see any significant difference between the company the candidate currently works for and the client (of course there will always be differences but nothing that made me think he won’t fit in). So why was the client having second thoughts?
Yes, you guessed it – body language.
The client picked up on certain body language that led them to believe the candidate wasn’t engaged with the opportunity, wasn’t ‘professional’ enough for their role, and wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the team.
Interview Tips – Take Control Of Your Body Language!
What was he doing wrong? Feedback from the client suggested that he slouched in his chair, had his arms firmly crossed throughout the interview, and struggled to give any eye contact. This last factor gave me a hint about what was going on – interview nerves.
I’ve seen it time and time again; a candidate that’s confident when they meet me – a mere technical recruitment consultant – has an attack of the interview nerves when up for a job they really want. While they may answer questions in a coherent way, their body language reveals what’s going on behind the scenes and lack of eye contact is a classic symptom.
The crossed arms is a defensive behaviour, putting the barriers up between you and the scary interviewers, and the slouching was probably an unconscious behaviour to try to feel more at ease.
Unfortunately interviewers and employers don’t have the time to psychoanalyse your body language and give you the benefit of the doubt. They interpret these physical manifestations of your state of mind as arrogance or other negative characteristics, which then influences their decision – and your career.
So if you think your body is prone to doing the talking for you, you need to take control!
The first step is to be aware of your physical ticks and quirks. Speak to people who know you well as they may be able to identify those behaviours that are costing you job offers.
The next thing to do is replace negative body language with positive body language. If you know that eye contact is an issue, you can work on building your confidence and increasing the amount of eye contact you give. If you find your hands are firmly lodged in your armpits, arms crossed, practice ways to relax your hands, arms and shoulders and assume a more open, approachable position.
In fact you will also find that this helps with the interview nerves as it relaxes your body and therefore your mind.
Practice Makes Perfect
Although it may seem strange to practice your body language, trying out different techniques on a friend, family member or friendly recruitment consultant is a good idea. It will become second nature the more your practice and soon you’ll erase those negative habits. The good news is that positive body language has a positive effect on the interviewer, they will respond to you and this will help those interview nerves and the progression of the interview.
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