You've rehearsed every interview question in the book. Your suit is dry-cleaned. Your bag is stocked with extra pens, just in case. You seem to have all the pieces in place. Now the anxiety starts to build.
How do you knock an employer's socks off once you enter the gauntlet?
In today's competitive market, it's not enough to have a great cover letter and pristine resume. Most job seekers make the mistake of devoting too much time to prepping documents and tweaking their elevator speech, while neglecting one important fact: the body conveys the strongest messages of all.
A substantial portion of our communication is done through non-verbal behavior and micro expressions—subtleties that we notice and evaluate in our subconscious. In fact, only a small percentage of the brain processes verbal communication. So if you want to ace a tough job interview, it's essential to master the unspoken dynamics at play.
Hiring managers are not only listening to a candidate's answers, they're observing how you carry yourself, too. As body language expert Patti Wood explains, "A candidate can give out thousands of cues within the first minute…and those messages make more of an impact than what you say during the interview."
Even if you have been job hunting for a while, here a few moves that can pep up your approach. These seemingly small actions can have a big impact on employers and give you the slight edge over other job seekers.
1. Practice hands-free confidence
Curb nervous fidgeting such as tapping your fingers, shaking your leg or twirling your hair during the interview. Instead, pay close attention to keeping your hands relaxed. Face an open palm towards the hiring manager. This conveys composure, openness and honesty.
2. Perfect your posture
Humans cross our arms to shield the body in threatening situations, but this can come off as defensive or nervous in an interview. Additionally, while you may think leaning back in your chair makes you look cool and at ease, a recruiter may interpret your relaxed stance as disinterest.
Try this: Square your shoulders with the interviewer's then sit as if a string is tied from the top of your head to the ceiling. Or imagine a hand pressing in at the base of your back. This signals intelligence and credibility–plus you earn bonus points for sitting up straight like Mom always told you to (just kidding!).
3. Match and mirror the interviewer
Synchronize your voice with the person interviewing you, including their tone, cadence and speed. If they are a soft talker, don't reply at ear-bursting volume. Pay attention to their language choices.
For example, if you notice the hiring manager is using phrases such as "paint me a picture" you can mirror her word choice with responses like, "Its appears to me that…" or "To give you a look at what I'd like to accomplish in my first 90 days here…"
This will make the interviewer feel as if you are on the same level—an instant recipe for likability. People are drawn to those who are similar to them, so by mirroring another person's communication patterns in a natural way, they're more likely feel trusting of you.
Plain and simple, smiling allows others to feel comfortable with us. Not only that, but studies show that the mere action of smiling improves mood, making it a powerful antidote to calm job interview jitters.
At a minimum start and end your conversation with a smile on your face. These are the most memorable points of any interaction, so you'll leave the room having made a positive impression.
Fine tuning your non-verbal communication significantly maximizes your appeal to others, including employers. Body language is a key way of expressing confidence, maturity and optimism—all qualities top employers seek in a new hire.
Remember, words are only the first step to impress. Use these techniques and let your body say the rest.
Melody Wilding is a coach, licensed social worker, and Human Behavior professor who helps ambitious high-achievers master their mindset for success. She also gave a TEDx talk about how to overcome self-doubt. Get free tools to go from stuck to unstoppable at work on her website, melodywilding.com
A version of this article previously appeared at Melody's site.
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