Job interviews aren’t known for being calming, enjoyable or fun. In fact, for most people they are a source of great anxiety. Thoroughly prepared and meticulously rehearsed, the best of us suffer from a bout of butterflies now and again. This is natural, we are only human!
In an effort to combat pre-interview nerves our blog this week is talking body language. Whilst we can’t stop you feeling nervous before interview we can give you a few tips on how to cleverly conceal your true feelings.
The result? You will come across as a confident and capable applicant.
But just how do you master this zen-like appearance? Well, like a swan, you may be paddling away beneath the surface but, thanks to some useful body language techniques, on the surface you’ll be a model of collected confidence.
Some psychologists believe that if you emit an air of calm professionalism you will come across as a much more attractive candidate to an employer. The mindset of ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ may even apply for job interviews; acting the way you want to feel may result in you actually feeling it! This is very similar to the way in which an athlete uses visualisation before a race; to see yourself winning will result in a win.
What is body language?
Body language is classed as non-verbal communication (NVC) – basically, it’s what we say without speaking. It is the way in which our bodies express our thoughts or feelings, usually through a series of unconscious movements or postures. The ‘dictionary’ of body language is – like the English language – almost exhaustive. It goes on and on, becoming ever more subtle.
Knowingly or otherwise, we all use body language: a shrug of our shoulders, the toss of a chin, the wink of an eye, the crossing of legs or arms. With a little self-awareness and practise, job seekers can harness the power of body language as a very influential tool for interview.
During interview you will have very little time to convince a prospective employer you are the right person for the job. You will have prepared yourself well in advance, selected a smart set of clothes to wear and rehearsed answers to commonly asked questions. We suggest you take some time to consider your body language before and during your interview to maximise your chances of making a really lasting first impression.
We thought we’d use the queen of pop, Madonna, as the inspiration for our tips this week. Not only is she successful, savvy and sophisticated but she’s excellent at portraying these character traits through her body language as well as music.
Before the interview
Into the groove
Arrive for your interview early and give yourself ample opportunity to get ‘in the zone’. Find a quiet spot and conduct some simple, confidence-building exercises.
Even if you don’t feel like it, smile! It is easier to regulate actions than emotions, so if you act happy, you may encourage your mind to feel it. If you smile for thirty seconds or more, scientific studies have proved that you can actually decrease stress and improve happiness.
Striking a ‘power pose’ can significantly improve your confidence levels and reduce stress. How? It increases testosterone levels and reduces levels of cortisol – great for encouraging a positive mindset.
Just like Peter Pan, put your hands on your hips, stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, jut out your chin and look yourself straight in the eye. You might feel foolish but we guarantee it will lift your mind and spirits!
During the interview
Feeling better? Got that Madonna soundtrack cranked to the max in your head? Great! Now, you just need to project that new-found confidence onto the interview panel. Here’s how!
Like a prayer
Hand-steepling is when you spread your fingertips and pressing them together in a prayer-like gesture. This is a gesture of confidence because it shows that you are dedicated to your point of view. Hand-steepling also conveys dominance.
Your feet are the part of your body most reactive to the limbic system. The limbic system controls physiological functions, such as sweating or heavy breathing when scared. When people meet, one foot, not both feet, usually faces the person. However, if they’re very uncomfortable, both feet may turn away from that person. So, when you face someone with your whole body, you demonstrate openness.
Sitting up straight is scientifically proven to raise your confidence. Amy Cuddy and her team at Harvard University separated people into two groups – those sitting in a dominant positions (sitting up straight) against those sitting with weaker positions (slouching), and let them gamble. People maintaining a dominant position were 45% more likely to make a riskier bet.
Okay, enough with the Madonna analogies – do these tips actually work?
When it comes down to it, just like a superstar pop act, your skills are more important than your body language. You wouldn’t download a track if Madonna couldn’t sing, would you?
Body language should be used to reinforce, not substitute, your accomplishments – be it singing or accounts – you are confident because you are proficient at the requirements of the job.
However you feel on the inside (and even the most talented people get nerves – Madonna recently admitted to such terrible stage fright she felt as if she would ‘drop dead on stage’) body language strategies can help you appear confident and feel confident, too.