Job Interview Tips - Body Language And Interviewing

Patti Wood, body language expert, on how to ace the non-verbal part of the job interview.

Nonverbal communication often makes a bigger impression on an interviewer than what you say, says Patti Wood, a body-language expert based in Atlanta, who has worked with executives at many Fortune 500 companies. Here’s her advice on what you can do to improve your chances of making a great first impression.

The first 10 seconds are the most important: Most hiring decisions are made within the first ten seconds of the interview, sometimes before you even formally begin the conversation. We’re able to read up to 10,000 non-verbal cues in less than a minute. When we talk about getting a gut feeling about a person, what we’re really talking about is reading all those nonverbal cues really, really quickly. Many hiring decisions in interviews are based on reading those cues in an instinctual way.

The most common mistake: The mistake I see most takes place in those first essential moments. Sometimes you’re so focused on you (your nerves, how you look, etc.) that you’re not doing what you would do naturally, and that’s focus on the other person. Making contact and a connection with the interviewer should be uppermost in your mind rather than, how do I look? how do I seem?

That seems obvious until you think about how those first few moments unfold. What if you’re sitting and somebody comes out to greet you? Don’t do what most people do first: pick up all of your things. Leave your stuff where it is and stand up to greet your interviewer. Shake hands. Make eye contact. Connect with that person. Then, pick up your belongings and follow your interviewer into the office.

Know when to make eye contact: In typical conversation, you’re making eye contact about 60 percent of the time. But it’s also important to realize that it is normal to look away from time to time as you’re speaking because you’re accessing information in your brain. Really, the listener should be the one making eye contact. So make sure that when your interviewer is talking, you’re locked in.

If your interviewer loses interest: The interviewer may back away from you, break off eye contact, or stop giving you nonverbal feedback. If you’re sensing that something has shifted or changed, don’t freak out. Keep being yourself: listening, connecting and answering their questions. If it’s appropriate and fits your personality, you can even choose to be a bit feisty and say, “What can I do right now to convince you that I’d be the best person for this job?”

Women—Watch your voices: I typically tell women that they need to be sure that their voices stay strong until the end of the sentence. There’s a tendency for women’s voices to go up at the end of a sentence as if they’re asking a question instead of making a definitive statement. That makes you sound as if you don’t trust yourself and can leave a bad impression. You want to sound confident.

What to do with your hands: Ideally you want your hands visible. Don’t hide them under the table or between your legs. Keep your hands open and in view on the table or the arms of the chair—but don’t grip them for dear life. Or gesture. If you’re really nervous, you may want to briefly hold your own hand to comfort yourself. That’s actually very natural. But don’t keep your hands closed through the whole interview. When you close your hand the amount of tightness and the way the fingers curve show how you feel about the topic being discussed, the person you are with, and most of all how you are feeling.

Posture that communicates confidence: Use what I call “up” body language. It’s beautifully symbolic–you go up when you’re feeling up. Your gestures move up, your head comes up, your shoulders come up and back, and your step is upwards.

Before the interview, do fun things that make you feel good and positive instead of rehearsing the interview. Consider talking to a friend, watching something funny, or listening to great music that makes you sing in the car. Do things that would naturally make your body language go up.

The end matters too: Make sure your belongings are on the left side of your body so you can shake with your right hand. At the end you may shake hands more than once and that’s fine. You could shake your interviewer’s hand when you get up, at the door, or sometimes you’ll end up talking a little bit more and you’ll shake hands again. Make that seem like the most natural thing in the world, because every time you shake hands, you’re bonding, and that’s a good thing.

The end is very critical. Even if you feel like you didn’t do that well, you can still save it by closing strongly and confidently. Some people, when they feel they didn’t get it, they turn off. Instead, stay present and poised all the way to the end, because you still have a chance if you end strong.

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at