How to use non-verbal communication to your advantage in interviews

It’s essential to keep these non-verbal features in mind during your interview. Here, we’ll delve further into how you can effectively use body language and non-verbal communication in a way to give you the edge at your next interview.


You’ve swotted up on the organisation, prepared detailed, compelling answers for those all-important questions, and planned some incisive questions of your own that are sure to seal the deal. But selling yourself at an interview doesn’t end with what you’re saying.

From the second you shake hands and sit down, your interviewer is likely to have formed an opinion based on body language alone. Though the content of your communication is important, it’s the non-verbal which could be the difference maker between you and your competition.

Things like intonation, speed of delivery, pauses and facial expressions can carry a lot of information about yourself, so it’s essential to keep these non-verbal features in mind during your interview. Here, we’ll delve further into how you can effectively use body language and non-verbal communication in a way to give you the edge at your next interview.

The importance of body language

Positive body language, while sometimes easier said than done, can separate ambitious, determined job-seekers from those who aren’t. It’s a vital part of the interview process that your interviewer will be well aware of during your time together.

Woman being interviewed by man

Non-verbal communication helps to supplement your verbal communication, whether you’re answering a question, introducing yourself or any number of speech acts. Discrepancies between your body language and your speech will lead interviewers to reach certain conclusions, so it’s essential that there’s a synchronicity between the two.

Body language conveys information about the candidate’s emotions and attitudes too; if someone is blinking too much or tapping their feet, it’s likely a sign of their nervousness at the situation. Non-verbal cues also serve to control the flow of a conversation, ensuring that both candidate and interviewer don’t start speaking at the same time.

Why appearance matters

Non-verbal communication also encompasses how you look. The way you’re dressed, and how you present yourself, will also tell the interviewer plenty too. Inappropriate or sloppy-looking attire goes against the professional, confident manner you want to demonstrate, while too much perfume or a whiff of cigarette smoke are other red flags your interviewer may take note of.

Take pride in your appearance; something that exudes expertise and professionalism, that also makes you feel good, will be a natural confidence booster on the way to your interview. Allowing for plenty of travel time also ensures you won’t be rushing to get there; turning up looking dishevelled, sweaty and unkempt is never a good look.

Businessman speaking with three male and female colleagues at networking event

Nailing the first impression

Even the way you greet the receptionist in the lobby can make an impact; you never know if the interviewer will ask them for more on your conduct before the interview. Be polite, introduce yourself and sit up straight while waiting. Rather than looking at your phone or listening to music, check over your interview preparation notes or any company materials in the lobby.

Upon meeting the interviewer, your first order of duty is getting the handshake right. A quick dash to the bathroom to wash your hands will save you the embarrassment of a sweaty palm, while a firm shake, rather than a bone-crushing grip, will put your first impression on the right track. A limp handshake can often imply awkwardness, uncertainty or nervousness too, not things you want to convey from the get-go.

During the interview

Posture

There’s a balance to sitting the right way during an interview. First things first, some rules of thumb: sit up straight and avoid slouching. You want to appear confident and enthusiastic, which is all conveyed by how you angle your body. Leaning forward a little demonstrates interest. Leaning too far back makes you seem relaxed or arrogant, while too close to the interviewer will be a little off-putting.

Business colleagues discuss over a while table, birds eye view
Hands and feet

Keep your feet flat on the floor. Hands are a little trickier; overly enthusiastic gesturing could be construed as nerves, so place them in a neutral position on the table or fold them loosely in your lap. If in doubt, mirror the actions of the interviewer in a subtle, natural way. This has the added benefit of indicating you agree with the recruiter subconsciously.

Eye contact

Likewise, eye contact walks a fine line. Too little, and you’ll appear nervous or distant, too much and it can seem forced or robotic. Maintain it in a natural way for a few seconds at a time; listen carefully, smile and nod as appropriate.

Posture

Speak at a clear volume, and take care to enunciate your words properly. Focus on breathing while you speak; you might sound rushed or hasty otherwise.

Facial expressions

Be mindful of what your face is saying throughout the interview. If you maintain a straight expression throughout, it may seem like you’re going through the motions of what you’ve prepared, reciting answers you’ve memorised. Be sure to smile at appropriate moments and avoid frowning or pulling faces at any information you might disagree with.

Anxious woman during business interview
Sighing

Breathing out or sighing before questions should be avoided. Again, it speaks to nervousness, but it may also indicate that the interview is something of a chore and you’d prefer to be elsewhere. Additionally, if a large sigh comes after a difficult question, it could be a tell-tale sign of you being easily bothered or exasperated by past events.

After the interview

 

Before you leave, give the interviewer another firm handshake. Smile, thank them for their time and walk out confidently. Be sure to say goodbye to the receptionist or anyone else you spoke to on your way out, too.

Now you can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that you made an excellent impression using non-verbal or body language-based cues.

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