By Joe Stein
What is Your Body Language Telling Others?
Have you ever thought about all the communication signals you send without verbally saying anything? It is important for the savvy Job Seeker to communicate positively during their contact with a prospective employer. This week we look at the elusive topic of Body Language and provide some tips on how you can stand out from your competition without saying a word.
Examples of Body Language:
Body Art – It is a fact that many individuals have tattoos and /or piercings outside the earlobes. The growing trend for individuals is for individuals to attempt to remove these tattoos as they mature in their career because they have found that in most work environments it is a detriment. Some individuals suggest removing all body art and hiding tattoos until after you are hired. The thought is then you can spring the body art on your new employer. My philosophy is that it is equally important to keep your job in good standing as it is to be hired for the position.
Clothing – A general rule of thumb is to dress with standard interview attire unless told otherwise. A company who has a business casual or relaxed dress code will generally communicate to you ahead of time if they feel dressing in less than traditional interview attire is appropriate. Your dress is even important for Light Industrial and other positions of this nature, try to dress a step or two above what you would be expected to wear on the floor.
Eye Contact – A very important sign of confidence is eye contact. It is also a sign that you are engaged in the communication. It is also not just important when you are speaking, but also equally needed when you are listening as a sign of attentiveness and also comprehension. It is okay, however, to look away, we don’t want the Interviewer to be given the perception that you are staring or leering at them. If you are in a group setting such as a panel interview, then treat each answer as an individual 1 on 1 conversation focusing on the inquirer, answering the question with a brief scan of the room to gauge for understanding.
Facial Gestures – A smile is very important, as you want to project warmth. Raise your eyebrows when appropriate to emphasize a point you are making. If you watched any of the numerous poker shows on television then you know how much the face can communicate. Try not to show surprise or dissatisfaction at any questions or information provided by the Interviewer. Your goal is to convince the prospective employer that you are the best candidate and interested in the position.
Fidgeting – Fidgeting is a surefire way to show nervousness. Do not tap your fingers, pick at your clothes, adjust your tie, touch your face repeatedly, click/twirl a pen, nor play with your hair. All these acts will be distracting and serve to show that you are neither confident nor comfortable.
Handshake – The handshake is probably not as important as a previous generation where a firm handshake had quite the stereotype indicating vitality and even honesty. It is still an important first impression on the Interviewer. A firm handshake can reflect warmth, confidence, and enthusiasm. Gauge your interviewer pre-handshake for what type of handshake they might be interested in such as a full grasp rather than a light clinch. Do not provide a bone crusher handshake. Make sure you provide a dry hand for the handshake, as anything else will be a clear indication of your nervous as well as being uncomfortable for the Interviewer. Make sure you smile and provide eye contact when shaking hands. Do not be offended if your Interviewer does not offer a handshake especially during the cold and flu season, but you as the interviewee should always participate if prompted.
Hand Gestures – If you have had the opportunity of viewing many public speakers lately there is a growing phenomenon…the hand gesture. The problem is that many of these people use so many hand gestures you become distracted from the verbal message you came to hear. For the Job Seeker, the hand gesture can place extra description towards what you are saying. You want to pull the hand gesture out when you want to place additional emphasis on a very important point. Too many and your message will get lost. Small and frequent gestures may give the Interviewer the perception that you are very nervous.
Hygiene – Of course, good personal hygiene is important during your job search (well any time for that matter). You will want to be freshly washed, with light or no cologne/perfume, and groomed fingernails for the anticipated handshake and when you make the necessary hand gestures.
Sitting – When you enter the room with the Interviewer, wait to be shown where to be seated. The interview is the time to bring out your good posture. You can balance this with not wanting to be seen as stiff as a board during the discussion. My recommendation is to start very upright, but then relax the posture some when both parties become more comfortable with each other. That does not mean to slouch which will project you as negative, unenergetic and uninterested. For effect you will want to briefly lean partially back to show comfort with the Interviewer and lean forward to show particular interest and attentiveness. Avoid crossing your arms if possible as this gesture projects defensiveness and a lack of approachability. Be conscious of your leg crossing especially if you are wearing a skirt. While leg crossing is a means of displaying you are comfortable, it can be viewed as inappropriate or flirting if you are wearing a skirt and too much is exposed. If you do cross your leg make sure you do not display nervousness by shaking your foot.
Voice – In the interview you will want to sound confident and knowledgeable. This is an area where “mock interviewing” with friends and family will really help you. Anticipate some frequently asked questions and prepare an opening and closing statement. You will want to sound natural when presenting your prepared answers, but having an idea of what you will say and practicing it will allow you to avoid “umms and aahs” while adding voice inflection for effect. It is important to avoid the monotone that we all remember from some of our teachers during our school years. Voice inflection will help you emphasize points and display enthusiasm. You will want to alternate appropriately between speaking quickly and then slowing down when an important point must be made clear. You will want to speak in a normal speaking voice, but raise your voice when a point needs that little extra. Do not speak in a mumble, whisper, or allow your voice to trail.
Walking – Most of the time you will be led by the Interviewer to a room where you will be interviewed. Walk with confidence and purpose during this time. Do not trail the Interviewer but rather walk beside them to allow for possible pre-interview banter and to display your readiness for the discussion. You will want to be conscious of providing enough personal space for your companion to be able to walk comfortably.
It is amazing that so many Job Seekers forget about such an important subject as body language. A savvy Job Seeker reviews their body language to make sure they are conveying the desired message.
As always, best of luck in your job search.
The following has been prepared for the general information of WNY Jobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.
WNY Human Resources Professional