By: Vanessa Van Edwards
Behavioral Investigator & Author
How will you prepare for your next big interview? Most of us think about the verbal answers—what to say, stories to tell and the perfect answers. Very few of us think about how we want to come across.
As a human behavior investigator, I have spent the last ten years doing original research on scientifically proven social strategies and tactics to help you succeed at my behavior lab the Science of People. I’ve worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies teaching them my comprehensive, science backed, real life manual on human behavior and a completely new approach to building connections.
Now I want to give you my 5 favorite body language tips to help you rock your next interview.
#1: Hands First
When we first meet someone we always look at their hands first. This is especially important in an interview situation because your interviewer might be trying to gauge if you want to shake hands. Make it easy! As soon as you see your interviewer, lead with your hand and give them a nice, brief handshake.
- Insider Tip: Don’t forget to end on a handshake. We usually shake when first meeting someone, but you want to seal the deal with a last burst of touch. Be sure to shake hands even if you have met the person before—this is a extremely warm way of greeting.
#2: Claim Your Space
When we are nervous we tend to ‘turtle’ which is when you bring your chin down and your shoulders up to take up less space. We also try to make ourselves as small as possible–women cross their legs, men fold their arms over their chest. This shows the interviewer you are insecure and can make it look like you have something to hide. So relax your arms, plant your feet and don’t let your body show your tension. If you can—always use the arm rests which helps you roll your shoulders back.
- Insider Tip: If you have a choice of chairs—never choose the low couch. It makes it really hard to claim space. Always look for the highest chair in the room with a tall back and arm rests. You sit as tall as your chair.
When speaking with someone you want to angle your toes, torso and head towards them. Fronting is a nonverbal sign of respect. When you are really engaged with someone you align your entire body with theirs—head-to-head, torso-to-torso and toe-to-toe. In an interview be sure to angle yourself towards the interviewer. If you have multiple people in an interview—angle towards the person speaking to show them respect.
- Insider Tip: This is also important for your LinkedIn profile photo. We analyzed thousands of photos and found people like pictures of people fronting—angling towards the camera.
#4: Smile Right
A lot of conventional interview advice says that people should smile all the time in interviews, but this is not always a good idea. What’s better is to smile right. You never want to fake smile—this comes across as inauthentic. Try to find authentic ways to smile, tell stories about an old colleague you are fond of, smile when you first meet someone because you truly are happy to meet them. Try to discuss subjects you are actually passionate about so you can show real happiness.
- Insider Tip: Start and end a meeting by saying, “I am so happy to meet you” or “I am thrilled to be here.” This is positive and gives you a good opportunity to smile.
We all know that eye contact is important—but there is a sweet spot for eye contact. When we mutually gaze with someone we produce oxytocin—the hormone of connection. But we do not want to make too much eye contact. In western cultures the sweet spot is 60 to 70% of the time. So don’t be afraid to take in the view or look around while you talk—just make sure you are making eye contact as they speak to you.
- Insider Tip: Try to notice their facial expressions—this helps you deep gaze and decode their emotions.
Most importantly, only apply to jobs you are actually excited about–this helps you show real smiles, claim space and gives you great nonverbal.