Non-verbal communication consists of a wide range of cues. The meaning of non-verbal communication is as broad and as literal as its name – it can mean any form of communication that is conveyed without words, encompassing tone, expressions, body language, dressing, etc. Despite that non-verbal communication cues can include these things, “body language” seems to be the first that comes to mind each time, and it is because of the important role that it plays in communication.
Professor Albert Mehrabian proposed the 7-38-55 rule, suggesting that only 7% of communication is conveyed through words, while 38% comes from tonality. The largest portion of communication, according to Mehrabian, is attributed to body language, accounting for 55%. This is why it is important for us to understand what we are expressing through our non-verbal communication while we are at work or other professional settings. When we are attending a job interview, body language plays a key role in creating the impression that we form for the interviewer.
Body language includes any other utilization of bodily movements, facial cues, and gestures as a means of nonverbal communication, whether they are employed instinctively or intentionally. Some common examples are:
· Eye contact
Good body language communication at an interview will help convince the interviewer that you are a competent, capable professional who is pleasant to work with. After all, communication is a key soft skill that transferrable across many positions. It will also help express your interest in the position you are interviewing for. Here are some tips on how you can improve your body language and perfect your non-verbal communication skills for the next interview!
1. Master your handshake
Covid-19 may have left some to prefer other forms of greeting, but nonetheless, the ability to deliver a solid handshake is a must have. Handshakes should be palm to palm in a firm grip. One or two simple shakes should suffice. Make sure to greet your interviewer with a smile while exchanging pleasantries. You can practice this with your friends and ask for feedback, just remember to practice good hygiene!
Do not: Hold your interviewer’s hand in a tight, crushing grip, or shake their hand with too much strength as this comes off as aggressive and intimidating. On the other hand, a lose grip and a weak handshake may make you seem timid and uninterested.
2. Communicate your interest
You will be at the interview for an extended period, and interviewers will be looking for signs that you are still interested when you are listening to what they share. While leaning forward can signal great interest, experts agree that keeping a neutral spine is the optimal posture. Leaning forward too much may cause interviewer to feel crowded or make you appear too aggressive but leaning back may appear arrogant and disinterested. Meanwhile, be sure to show your interest and express that you are actively listening by nodding and occasionally tilting your head to a side.
Do not: Position your body in a direction away from the interviewer as that may make the interviewer think that you are uninterested.
3. Improve your eye contact
Eye contact tells the interviewer that you are trustworthy. Making eye contact can be difficult. If you struggle with this, look at the space between the interviewers’ eyes and their forehead. This will look like you are making eye contact even when you are not. Remember that eye contact should look natural and not intense. A good guide is to maintain eye contact about 50-70% of the time; 50% when you are speaking and 70% when listening. You can take a break by looking at your notes and surroundings. If there is more than one interviewer in the room, alternate your gaze between them when you are answering or asking questions.
Do not: Stare at your interviewer too intensely and cause them discomfort. However, you also should not avoid eye contact as it makes it seem like you have something to hide.
4. Use your facial muscles
Facial expressions are key non-verbal communication cues at an interview, as it most directly expresses what we are thinking. Employers are looking for a potential team member who is enthusiastic, has a positive outlook and will be a good addition to the team. Smiling makes you appear more confident and pleasant to work with, and even have a positive impact on your mood! But you should also be able to switch up your smile to reflect what you are thinking or how you are feeling. Raising your eyebrows and widening your eyes, for example, can show the interviewer that you are thinking and are curious. Match the tone to the context of the topic, and practice in front of a mirror to ensure you have neutral resting expression.
Do not: Show inappropriate facial expressions. Smiling too much, in the wrong context will make you seem robotic and tone deaf.
5. Carry yourself with confidence
You are being observed once you walk in. We suggest you stow away your water bottles and extra bags if they are cumbersome and hinder your walking. Walk with purpose and with your back straight towards the interviewer. Avoid slouching or cowering as you will appear timid and lacking self-assurance. All the previous tips such as sitting with your back up and smiling will present you as a more confident individual. You should also avoid fidgeting as that can make you seem nervous. Common habits include playing with pens and accessories, or tapping on the table etc.
Do not: Wear rings or watches, or hold a pen, if you have the tendency to fidget with them. You should also not fidget when you are in a waiting room as you do not know who might observe you when they walk pass.
6. Gesture effectively
By using your hands, we mean using effective hand gesture. Be natural and resist forcing hand gestures as that can make you look stiff and uncomfortable. You hand gestures should complement what you are saying, such as emphasise your points, and not distract from what you are trying to express. These days, many interviews are held virtually or require a video introduction. Hand gestures can help to better express yourself through a screen, so do not shy away from them. If you are resting, practice putting your hands on the table in a relaxed manner.
Do not: Cross your arms as you will look closed off, nor interlace your fingers. Both these actions may lead you to feel hesitant to use your hands again when the nerves kick in.
7. Mirror, mirror
When we say mirror, we mean mirror your interviewer and using a mirror. Firstly, mirroring your interviewer. When you mirror your interviewer’s pose or stance, you activate something called the “mirror neuron” in their mind and make them empathise with you more. The other way to interpret “mirror” is “use a mirror to practice” – or you could film yourself instead. The goal is to know what you look like when you are in a job interview and smooth out your personal non-verbal communication do’s and don’t’s. By looking at a mirror or recording yourself, you will be able to catch on to your own body language and correct them.
Do not: Overly imitate your interviewer. If you are uncomfortable, stick to maintaining a neutral position. However, a good way to practice will be when you are having neutral discussions with your friends.
Non-verbal communication forms a big part of the job interview. Being aware of the do’s and don’t’s of your body language helps to prevent any miscommunication and make a lasting impression on your interviewers. Don’t forget to practice – you can do so with some of our Top 10 Common Interview Questions. All the best!