Dr. Amy Cuddy social psychologist and Harvard professor specializing in training yourself to present powerful body language – speaks about what’s called ‘presence’ in her recent audio book.
“Presence stems from believing in and trusting yourself – your real, honest feelings, values, and abilities. That’s important, because if you don’t trust yourself, how can others trust you? Whether we are talking in front of two people or a thousand, interviewing for a job, negotiating for a raise” – for example – “speaking up for ourselves or
speaking up for someone else, we all face daunting moments that must be met with poise if we want to feel good about ourselves and make progress in our lives. Presence gives us the power to rise to these moments.”
When it comes to an interview – the question is – Is your body talking louder than you are?
And is it sending the positive messages you want it to send in your professional life? Or negative which can ruin chances of being offered the job and successfully moving forward?
The fact is – aside from negotiating salary – an interview is one of the most important moments in your professional life when the message you telegraph is more important than you may imagine. In many cases, even more important than words you speak.
Behavior expert Joe Navarro says there are a variety of ‘tells’ an individual transmits to people – via body language. ‘Tells’ which speak the truth about what the individual is thinking and/or how they’re feeling about a question or statement which has been directed at them. Navarro, as well as hiring pros and many decision-makers, can also tell if you believe what they – the interviewer – is saying.
Psychologist Michelle Bacjac says in a recent LinkedIn post – “Most of us are probably aware that much of our communication is actually non-verbal. But you may in fact be quite shocked as to what you are unintentionally telling people about yourself by your actions rather than words which actually come out of your mouth”.
“Collectively”, says executive coach Darlene Price, “facial expressions, hand gestures, postures, tone of voice and touch – together – paint a picture of what you’re actually saying. Wordless signals, they speak volumes” She’s determined 65% to 93% of gestures, etc, have more impact than spoken words. Behavior experts agree.
Here’s 7 valuable tips to help you understand the effects of body language and successfully modulate yours during an interview:
1. Lack of confidence and lying shows with a slight raising of the shoulder.
“I’m really unsure or not being truthful comes through with a slight raising of the shoulders” says Navarro. While, subliminal, the movement packs some power in telegraphing what you’re thinking. Navarro learned over thousands of criminal interviews to watch interviewee’s shoulders; they would expose a lack of confidence or an outright lie by raising a shoulder just slightly. “This muted or slow inching up of the shoulders says, subconsciously, ‘I lack confidence in what I am saying’.”
2. Don’t constantly smile during an interview. Smile at appropriate times.
Smiling, says executive coach Darlene Price, is a sign of appeasement. In fact, it’s a sign of subordinate behavior. Women smile more often than men. Introduced to the interviewer a man simply shakes the individual’s hand and nods his head. He may say ‘Good (great) to meet you’. Most don’t smile.
While being approachable and polite is important, on the other hand – whether man or woman – smile too much and it’s a good bet the interviewer won’t take you seriously. Nod, instead of smiling.
3. Moderate your gestures – Don’t use expansive, wild gestures.
Moderate your gestures and movements by allowing them to emanate from your shoulders, not your elbows, says Price. Using your shoulders allows for a more controlled movement to make your point. Using low, broad movements shows confidence; plus you’re in control.
Also – using gestures emanating from your shoulders allows you to create more space for yourself without seeming out of control and about to take over the interview. Too many seemingly wild, out of control, gestures can:
- Point to an individual who doesn’t mean what they say.
- May not be an individual who inspires trust.
- May not be one who’s capable of motivating others.
- Could be a controlling individual who puts themselves first at all times.
4. Stand up straight and throw your head and shoulders back when you enter a room. It shows confidence. Don’t and you show lack of it. It’s a fact – People who stand up straight show confidence and personal control psychologists and hiring pros tell us.
Since this is your introduction to the interviewer or decision-maker, it’s essential to present yourself in a professional yet positive way. Those who stand up straight, show they are anchored, stable, in charge and in control.
5. Constant eye blinking is usually a sign of stress.
“Regarding eye movements”, says behavior expert Joe Navarro, “stress can bring on constant blinking”. For example – both former presidents Nixon and Clinton, he says, have been known to a blink dozens of times, within a minute, when under stress. Be aware your non-stop blinking is telegraphing the interviewer of your stress. Additionally – be aware that squinting accurately shows discomfort, stress or anger issues. Telegraphing to the interviewer exactly what we’re feeling at that moment, says Navarro. (full article – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/spycatcher/200912/the-body-language-the-eyes
Bottom line – your stress can strongly suggest to the interviewer you aren’t the best person for the job.
6. Don’t fidget. Stay engaged when it counts most.
Leil Lowndes, in her recent book “How to Talk to Anyone” says “If you want to appear credible, try not to move too much.” Says Lowndes – “When the conversation really matters, don’t fidget, twitch, wiggle, squirm or scratch. Frequent hand motions, near your face, can give the listener (interviewer) the feeling you’re anxious or lying.” Which Joe Navarro absolutely agrees with. Instead, says Lowndes – fix a constant gaze on the listener to show them you are fully concentrated on the matter at hand. Keep hands laying quietly in your lap.
7) Uncross your arms. Crossing of arms shows you are closed off to whatever’s being said.
You are unknowingly showing the interviewer a defensive position.
Says Lisa Gueldenzoph Snyder, PhD, professor and chairperson of the department of business education at North Carolina A&T State University – “It blocks any basis for building trust.”
Make sure your body looks open—you’ll look more open to hearing others’ thoughts. This is a subtle habit which can help develop trust.
Use it all the time in both work and in your personal life.
Finally: Even if your question responses are flawless, body language can tell the interviewer a far different story.
Jean L. Serio CEIC, CPC, CeMA, CSEOP