When the unspoken speaks volumes: how to demonstrate positive body language

By Robert Half on 29 August 2016

In an interview, positive body language is just as important as the answers. Some bad career advice would be to only pay attention to what you say. How you deliver the message also has a big impact to how successful you’ll be in the interview.

From your facial expressions to your arm gestures and body posture; how you express body language could be the difference between you being welcomed with open arms into the business, and leaving with a cursory handshake.

Here are some clear indications of positive body language, and some tips to know what negative body language you should avoid.

Positive body language

  • Direct eye contact. Try to look at your potential manager in the eye as much as possible. It will help imbue them with confidence and trust.
  • Leaning in. Leaning forward demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm.
  • Open arms. Even if you’re chilly, ensure you keep your arms open and your shoulders relaxed to appear open and interested.
  • Sitting up straight. A straight and tall posture shows confidence and calmness.
  • Pointing both feet toward the interviewer. By sitting or standing with your feet towards your manager, it shows that your focus is on them. Crossing your feet or pointing them towards the door usually indicates you’d rather be out the door.

Negative body language

  • Looking away. Looking over your manager’s shoulder is usually a clear indication that you’d rather be elsewhere. Looking down repeatedly is an indication that you lack confidence.
  • Crossed arms. It’s an obvious one, but also one of the most important body language signals. Crossing your arms is a sure sign of defensiveness in an interview.
  • Hunched shoulders. Letting your shoulders stoop demonstrates a lack of confidence
  • Constantly touching your face, playing with a pen – or worse, biting your nails – shows discomfort and nervousness.
  • Shifting your weight. Similarly, repeatedly moving your feet, twitching your legs or shifting your weight could show that you have something to hide.

How to ensure you have positive body language

  1. Practice, practice, practice. Prior to the interview, have a rehearsal in front of a mirror – or even better, tape yourself on video. Watch yourself carefully for eye contact, body posture and fidgeting – and if you notice anything negative, keep practicing until it turns positive. Practice really does make perfect when it comes to verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  2. Breath. Before you walk into the interview, take a deep, calming breath. Hold it in for a few seconds, then slowly let it out. Repeat three times to help settle your nerves. Keeping calm on the inside will help you appear confident on the outside.
  3. Dress to impress – but be comfortable. If you are wearing uncomfortable clothes, while taking into account the company’s dress code, you might feel the need to fidget during the interview. It’s very difficult to maintain composure if you are wearing scratchy fabric or uncomfortable shoes.
  4. Be prepared. Arrive at least ten minutes early. Ensure you have everything you need for the interview, such as a notepad, a pen and a copy of your resume. Go to the bathroom prior to the interview and turn off your phone before you walk into the room. This will help avoid any preliminary fussing over paperwork or technology when you are first introduced to the interviewer.

The unspoken can speak volumes. If you practice positive body language, you’ll also be able to read the body language your interviewing manager is displaying towards you. This can help give you an indication as to how you are progressing in the job interview so that you can adapt your responses accordingly.

With a bit of practice, you’ll be winning over your next employer faster than you can say ‘sit up straight.’

Do you want to be an interview expert? Find out more job interview tips.

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