One of the common questions that people who have experience in body language often get is “How should I act at a job interview?”
My response is that you should not act at all! When you go to an interview you would expect that the person interviewing you would be honest with you, answer your questions truthfully and give you a real understanding of what the new job role would be about “warts and all”. Would it not be fair to extend them the same courtesy? When someone is looking for person to fill a role they need to make sure they are getting the right person for the job. If you decided to “fib” to get the job, you would not be honest with your prospective employer, and you would not be honest with yourself. There would be a danger you end up getting in over your head into a role that you are just not suited for.
I think what most people really mean is “How can I give the best impression of myself at interview?” That is different.
Everyone gets nervous at interview. As I have mentioned previously when there is a risk of punishment or loss, anxiety is heightened. In this case the potential for losing an opportunity is enough to raise the nervous temperature of the individual.
My first advice is try too look at things objectively. If you are not successful, you would be in no worse a position than you are at the moment. I am not suggesting you are compeltely blasé about things, but as my grandmother use to say “If ifs and buts were apples and nuts, we would all be crunching and chewing!”
There are a couple of other tips that I can give you to reduce the impact of nerves. If you are a fidgit you need to focus on your body movements in a way that does not detract from what you are doing in the interview. Sitting on your hands to stop you fidgiting is not the best soloution, you just look like a 5 year old in need of the toilet! If you do find you are a fidgit the best solution I can give you is lace your fingers thumbs together and place them in front of you, on the table if possible or just in your lap. This will have two effects. Firstly, you are stopping you doing things with your hands (it reduces the manipulators that people tend to do when they are nervous), though to make sure this happens I would also remove any rings to stop you from twisting them. Secondly, you have created a physical defensive barrier between you and the interviewer. It is a minor thing, but subliminally it gives the right signals to your brain.
Regulate your breathing. When we are emotionally aroused our respiration rate tends to increase. This can become very obvious when you are speaking making your conversation stilted and even slightly asthmatic. If you are prone to this behaviour, pause and take a slow breath before starting to speak. Focus on that in-breath to prevent you from hyperventilating during your reply.
Taking an easy posture can also help reduce tension. I am not suggesting that you throw off your shoes and lounge in the office chair, but slight adjustments can make a big difference. If you are upright and rigid, you are going to come over as very tense.
Try dropping one shoulder slightly. If the chair has arms lean one elbow on the arm and drop the same shoulder slightly. This will give you a much more relaxed look and it will promote you to slightly angle your self from the interviewer. This is not enough to appear like a blocking motion, but enough to make you feel better defended. This also gives the impression of “lending an ear”.
Hand gestures when you are speaking are a good way of getting across that you are comfortable with your subject matter. But unless they are genuine don’t try and mock them up. They will come off false, especially if the timing and tempo are wrong. If you are unsure go back to the laced fingers.
Remember that most interviewers would be expecting you to be nervous anyway, so a little trepidation is fine, as long as you are not a gibbering pile of nerves it is not going to be particularly noticeable.
Of course, the rules would be different if you were hoping to secure a sales role.