Body Language for Job Interviews

Body language expert Patti Wood is quoted in an article on, "Interviewing for a Job" the link is below. The recommendations were made for college students. I coach clients on job interviewing and college students sometimes feel that an interview is performance where they must prepare word for word answers to possible questions and "shine." An interview should be a conversation and not a performance.

In conversations people make mistakes, it is real. You don't have to shake your head, apologize or ask to start over. Having a conversation means that you should also not "click on" when an interviewer gives you a question you prepared for and "click off' when you finished answering. Stay connected to the interviewer as you answer the questions.

Look at the interviewer when you finish speaking. Respond to their body language. You may not realize you're doing it, but make sure you don't give any "Whew, glad I am done with that." body language or "Shucks I messed up" body language as you finish answering a question. That means don't do the funny little tells such as breathing out a sigh or huff of breath as you finish speaking. Don't make a little relived or upset face as you finish talking. You would be surprised how often interviewees do that. There is something very unsettling about those expressions to an interviewer. Oddly it is more upsetting when they see a little smirk of glee on your face. It may sound creepy but it is a smirk I see on liars who think they have gotten away with their lie. Also, don't suddenly drop or relax your posture or sit back as if you have just finished an operatic solo.
One of the things I emphasized in the article was making good eye contact when you're listening to the interviewer. Another tip is to end strong. Even if you don't think you did well give a good handshake as you leave and stay up and confident. Again, you wouldn't beat yourself up in a conversation for not giving an answer exactly as you rehearsed it. If you want more on job interviewing you may wish to buy my body language book by linking to my website.

Sell yourself
By Brenna Long

Originally published October 21, 2010 at 6 a.m., updated October 21, 2010 at 6 a.m.

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CloseCommentFacebookDiggDeliciousPrint.Dressed to impress, Rachel Schallenberg shook his hand with confidence. She had done the simple greeting before. Then he stopped her and made her do it again. Her professional shake did not meet his standards.

Thankfully, this was a learning environment. Using the career services at KU, Schallenberg, Olathe senior, left her mock interview prepared to pursue a real job.

Under pressure: Whether your interview is in an office, at a career fair or on the phone, remember to be enthusiastic and engaged. If you’re in need of practice to eliminate nervousness, check out the resources at the University Career Center, which offers mock interviews and practice questions.
A quick shake counts for three hours of continuous interaction says Patti Wood, body language expert.

Start every interview with these 10 steps and you’ll be closer to getting a job.

Walk to the person confidently with head level and hands at your side, not in your pockets. If carrying a purse or portfolio, switch it to your left hand.

If sweaty palms or clammy hands plague you, wipe your hands before any handshake.

Briefly smile but don’t go over the top and look cheesy.

Make eye contact, but don’t stare. This lets the person know you want to interact.

Face the person directly, not at an angle.

Make sure you fully extend your right arm, or you may look timid.

Position your hand straight up with thumb on top.

Open the space between your thumb and index finger so your hand easily slides into theirs, keeping your other fingers straight so your palms touch.

Wrap your fingers around their hand and lock hands.

Shake firmly three times and release. The grip is not a contest of strength. Make sure to match the pressure of the other person.

Learning how to interview can help students feel more confident when they nervously sit down to impress future employers. At the University Career Center (UCC), students can get personal guidance on preparing for interviews.

To prepare, the UCC has practice questions, mock interviews and a virtual interview program online. Talking through questions with family and friends can help students get comfortable talking about themselves, says Ann Hartley, associate director at the UCC. For professional advice on interviewing performance, Hartley says the mock interviews at the UCC can help. The staff records and watches the interview with the student. “As much as students hate it, seeing yourself can help you notice the umms and pauses,” Hartley says.

When the interviewer has arrived, Hartley reminds students to take a résumé, pen and paper, but to leave the cell phone behind. “The danger of forgetting [to turn it off] is high, and that won’t make a good first impression,” Hartley says.

Next, take a deep breath and brag about yourself. While your mouth is moving, body language expert Patti Wood wants you to remember eye contact, listening and posture. Wood, who wrote Success Signals: Body Language in Business, says students today lack eye contact. Keeping the eye connection tells the interviewer you are paying attention and are interested in the job. After each answer, remember to listen to the interviewer. “Don’t click off,” Wood says. Along with consistent eye contact, engage the rest of your body. Lean forward slightly with your feet firmly planted on the ground.

After the nerve-wracking part is over, don’t forget to end an in-person interview with a solid handshake, Wood says. Even if you feel like you made mistakes, a firm handshake accompanied by words of interest can leave the interviewer with a good impression.

But not all interviews happen in a sit-down environment. Ryan Watson, Mascoutah, Ill., sophomore, experienced brief in-person interviews at the business career fair. “My goal was to not look like an idiot,” he says. Watson learned the importance of preparing a résumé and researching employers before attending the career fair.

Hartley at the UCC says the 30-second speech about yourself is the most important skill to have in career fair scenarios. “They want to know who you are and what you are there for,” she says.

A phone interview brings a different challenge. The interviewer can’t see your reaction. “Be enthused and animated,” Hartley says. Find a secluded spot and dress up so the mood of your conversation doesn’t turn casual. Hartley also recommends using this type of interview to your advantage by laying out your résumé and cheat sheets.

Heather Luth, Olathe senior, says her stomach filled with butterflies as she answered her cell phone for her first phone interview. “I just tried to focus on sounding excited.”

Nailing a job isn’t all about the interview, but these tips can help that part of the job hunt. If you need more help, visit the UCC in the Burge Union or online. They can help you organize your résumé and send you out of their office prepared to land your dream job.

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