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Candidates: Use Nonverbal Communication to Send the Right Message

It’s often said that the first five seconds a candidate spends with an interviewer can determine whether he or she lands the job. This may not be entirely true—after all, interviews are very complex and subjective process, and no two are ever quite the same. But there’s no doubt that a first impression creates a lingering impact. If the first introduction goes well, it takes a lot to derail an interviewer’s interest. And if the first few seconds go poorly, the opposite applies, and even the most brilliant and qualified candidates may have a hard time climbing back into their potential employer’s good graces.

So if you’re in the candidates chair, start the process off right by keeping these nonverbal tips in mind.

1. Relax.

Tension is not your friend. If you’re struggling to remember your mental list of nonverbal cues (make eye contact! Sit up straight! Etc, etc), that’s fine. But leave this list behind as you step in the door. From this point forward, you’re just two people having a polite conversation. Your elaborate choreography won’t help you if it isn’t already ingrained. A few practice sessions beforehand can make your posture, your eye contact and your smile seem less forced and more natural.

2. Engage.

Show interest in what your interviewer is saying. But just as important, show interest in what she’s thinking and feeling. Read between the lines. Tune in and ask polite follow-up questions as she speaks. As for clarification when you need it. Don’t turn her off by sitting in a self-involved bubble, practicing your next comment in your head when you should be listening and paying attention to those around you.

3. Lean forward.

Literally lean forward, or at the very least, keep your body posture inclined toward the person who is speaking to you across the table. If she decides to lean back in her chair, you can consider yourself momentarily released and you can arrange your body as you choose, but as soon as she straightens out, you should too.

4. Be mindful of your hands and arms.

Most of the time, your hands and arms should be relaxed at your sides. As you speak, you can move them forward and use them for emphasis. But at no point should you let your hands rise up to touch your face or cover your mouth. This is recognized as a gesture people use when they have something to hide.

At all times, make a good faith effort to stay open, honest, thoughtful and warm and your natural gestures will follow. If you close down, stiffen up, or don’t believe in your own words, this will also show in your gestures and posture. For more on how to send the first message and avoid the second, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.