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8 Body Language Tips to Help You Nail Your Next Interview

by Hanna Brooks Olsen
money & life

We’ve all been there: You’re in an interview for a job you really want, and you can just tell it’s going poorly. You’re sweating. You’re stuttering. The interviewer just won’t stop asking about the one blank spot on your resume — just like you knew she would! — and it’s obvious she isn’t interested in hearing your justifications. What went wrong?

Odds are, from the moment you started to lose confidence, the interview began to spiral. But it wasn’t because there was some magical hitch, or even because you weren’t qualified — it was because you stopped reading as confident, and the interviewer lost interest. You needed more powerful body language, which not only makes you come off better, but also physically makes you feel better.

Science of People founder and body language expert Vanessa Van Edwards calls power body language “the most important part of non-verbal communication.”

“93% of our communication is non-verbal,” reminds Vanessa.

So, how do you show that you’re a confident, quality hire for a potential new employer? Here are some body language tips that will not only help you appear more qualified, but also feel better about the process.

Take up some space: “The more expansive you are,” Vanessa says, “the more confident you feel and the more confident others perceive you.” Researchers have found that people who take up a little more space not only feel better about themselves, they also project an air of confidence — which, in a job situation, can make you look more competent and like a better hire. Vanessa recommends putting your hands on your hips, standing with your feel a little wider apart than you would normally, and sitting up straight with your hands showing if you’re seated.

…But not with your stuff: “A lot of research has shown,” says Vanessa, that having a coat and a purse, or a briefcase and a laptop bag, reads as “messy and disorganized.”

“If the front desk asks if they can take your coat, the answer is always ‘YES!'”

Show your hands: Showing your hands may seem like an odd tip, but, says Vanessa, hidden hands just look untrustworthy. While seated at a table, put your arms or hands on the table in a way that feels natural, but also takes up some space.

Tilt your head:Harvard Business School researchers found that warmth and competence are two of the most crucial factors we look for when deciding how we feel about someone,” Vanessa writes on her blog, “You can easily show warmth nonverbally by using the “Head Tilt.”  This is a nonverbal way of showing you are engaged and actively listening.” Simply tilt your head toward the interviewer (without diverting your gaze) to show you’re listening.

body language tips

Gaze like a pro: “Our eyes make a pattern on peoples’ faces.” Practicing power gazing — where you make a triangle between the eyes and up to the forehead — can help make you seem more dominant in a conversation. “Power gazing is what alphas do.” In an interview, you want to be an alpha.

…and keep doing it: “Shifty eye gaze,” says Vanessa, “reads as nervous. It’s okay to look away a little bit,” but be sure that you maintain eye contact at least 70% of the time — including when the other person is talking.

“Too often we look away, check our phone or scope out the rest of the room. This is not only rude, but very low confidence,” Vanessa advises. “To increase your confidence, be sure to look people in the eye as you are speaking AND as they are speaking.”

Smile right: Too much smiling can look nervous, or worse, unintelligent. “Smile when you first meet someone, and when you leave, and when you’re talking about something you’re passionate about. Otherwise, don’t smile too much.”

Sound authoritative: “What people do when they’re nervous is they use the question inflection,” says Vanessa, “So they say, ‘my price is $500?’ and they go up at the end.” This reads as nervous, inept, and generally off-putting. Instead, state your name (and everything else) as a fact. This is especially true for women, who often employ this “uptalking” tone.

Get more life-changing body-language tips from Vanessa with her class, The Power of Body Language

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Hanna Brooks Olsen

Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.