Butterflies, jitters, and fidgets… Oh, My!
We’ve all experienced bouts of anxiety at one point or another. But there’s nothing like sitting across from a potential employer to ramp tension to the max. One way to calm your nerves and ace your interview is to understand body language’s importance in this process. Read on to discover eight actionable tips to master the art of this silent communication form, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet.
The Windows to the Soul
Nothing says “insecure” like a downcast glance — and nothing says “confidence” like chin up and appropriate eye contact. From the receptionist to the interviewer, you make your first impression with your eyes.
On the flip side of this, don’t stare. That can create butterflies, jitters, and fidgets in your interviewer. Vary your facial expressions and remember, you’re simply having a conversation.
Upon greeting your interviewer, smile! Make it reach all the way to your eyes, which shows genuineness.
Again, don’t go overboard showing off your pearly whites. It’s a conversation—and no one ever smiles the entire time of any verbal exchange. If they do, it comes across as sketchy… Don’t be sketchy.
Let’s See Those Hands
Appropriate eye contact, your smile, and your handshake will likely happen all at the same instant—and it’s a very brief instant. Give a confident handshake and mimic the greeter’s grip and duration of the greeting. Got the sweats? Keep a cotton handkerchief (not a tissue, as those can disintegrate) in your pocket and dab your hands dry just before the greeting.
If your interviewer has dainty hands, don’t deliver a crushing blow to prove your worth. Also, be mindful of those who may not be comfortable shaking hands; fist-bumps and elbow greetings are also appropriate if that’s what your interviewer chooses. Bonus tip: If your interview is remote, give a friendly wave, then rest your hands back on your desk or tabletop (no nail-picking or thumb-twiddling, either).
Nothing Between Us
Don’t hold anything in front of you like a resume or water bottle. Place papers flat on the table or off to the side to keep the space between you and your potential employer free and gives a sense of openness.
“Blocking” also happens with your hands, upper arms, or shoulders. Relax your hands on the table or in your lap. Squarely face your interviewer without “turtling” away toward one side or another.
Deep breathing exercises calm the nerves and provide a much-needed oxygen boost to the brain resulting in clarity of thought. From the night before your big day to the parking lot the day of, do several rounds of deep breathing to clear the head. During your interview, it’s okay to take a quick pause after a question and take a breath (avoid dropping into a meditation pose — that may be overkill). Pausing gives your body time to use the oxygen for good and your brain time to respond with an appropriate answer.
Sit Up Straight, Now
Posture is a huge indication of your attitude and confidence levels. Rolled shoulders, slumping, or leaning on the table or the chair’s arm signals low confidence levels. Leaning all the way back in the chair may indicate boredom or disinterest. Instead, lean forward slightly, and you’ll appear engaged and interested in the conversation.
In addition, proper posture helps free up the diaphragm and lungs, allowing you to take more of those deep, calming breaths than when slumped over.
Something to remember: Even though your interviewer may not see your legs (if you’re across a table or on a video interview), they will see the results of fidgeting. Try to sit without crossing your legs. This keeps the blood flow moving and joints comfortable, so you’ll eliminate the need to uncross and recross them through the interview.
Also, if you have a nervous habit of leg-bobbing or knee-knocking, try to suppress those movements as much as possible. Fidgeting like this can signal disinterest, and some interviewers see it as impolite.
If you absolutely need to fidget, try channeling that nervous energy into your toes. And only your toes—not the heel or the whole foot. Toe-wiggling inside a shoe is imperceptible and will allow you some movement and release of nerves without sacrificing your calm demeanor.
You may have practiced answering various interview questions to appear as professional as possible and calm apprehension. While you’re at it, throw in a few “dress rehearsals” and ask a friend or family member to play the role of interviewer and provide feedback on the above tips. Alternatively, you use a mirror or record yourself during a mock interview so you’ll know what needs work, and you can squelch the jittery fidgets.