Job interviews can be intimidating, stressful and scary. But whether you are trying to land a new position or a summer internship, there are several ways one can prepare for the interview beyond learning answers to practice questions. Studies have said that 90 percent of our communication is nonverbal, so being aware of what message we send to the world – without words – can help you gain an edge over others when entering the job market.
Here are 5 basic nonverbal communications skills to master:
1. The Handshake
Much ado is made over handshakes: Body language experts will often analyze how world leaders approach each other in a handshake, noting the placement of hands and relate it to the hierarchy of international power. Handshakes matter, right down to that initial greeting that you give a perspective employer. Be sure to give a firm handshake – one does not want a bone-crushing grasp or a lazy, wet noodle grip. A good handshake is a good first impression.
2. Eye contact
Be sure to take the time to connect with your interviewer via your eyes. If he or she is talking, it is important to make eye contact and not be glancing around the room. Eye contact shows a sign of respect and indicates you are paying attention to what they saying or asking you. Of course, the flip side to increasing eye contact is making sure you don’t stare, which may be intimidating.
Be sure to sit up straight in your chair. A rule of thumb is to avoid putting your back against the chair – if you lean back you will slouch. Keep about six inches between you and the back of the chair, and you can sit straight and tall, looking professional and confident.
4. Gestures and fidgeting
Many of us talk with our hands in conversation, but too much gesturing or moving in a job interview can be distracting from what we have to say. If you are confused, try to practice in front of a mirror with sample interview questions to see how you appear to others.
5. Personal presentation
Clothes, jewelry, shoes, hair, perfume and make-up all send a message to the world, and to a future employer. Be sure your clothes match the job for which you would like to be hired. Don’t wear a neon green tie to an interview for an office job. If in doubt over what to wear, stick with basic neutral hues, perhaps with a pop of confident red. Be sure to look well-groomed, presentable and respectful when you walk in the door. Taking the time to look professional means you are serious about landing a spot in their company.
And one bonus tip – smile! Future employers will want to have someone on their team who not only works hard, but appears pleasant to be around. A great grin can put you, and the interviewer, at ease. Even if you are nervous, smiling is a great nonverbal tool to bridge the gap when you make that first handshake on your way to a new job or internship. Good luck!
Kellie Lambert is an Associate Faculty member in Post University’s Career & Self Awareness program and Communication and Media Studies program. Lambert McGuire earned her M.A. from Central Connecticut State University and has more than 22 years of experience writing and editing for newspapers, magazines and other publications.