Nonverbal Cues Also Important Part of Job Interviews

You know not to put your feet up in an interview, but do you think about other body language clues?

You know not to put your feet up in an interview, but do you think about other body language clues?

When you land a job interview, there’s a lot to think about to get ready. What kind of questions will you be asked? Will you have to demonstrate any of your skills, such as write computer code, do a presentation or take a test? How long will it take you to get to the interview? Where will you park?

Besides being prepared for the meeting and questions, what about the nonverbal impression you make and might not even be aware of? Your body language, from the way you walk into the interview and how you greet the interviewers to how you sit contribute to the impression you make on potential employers.

How do you project confidence and enthusiasm? Take your cues from your interviewer. When introduced, shake hands if it seems appropriate, smile and remain standing until you are asked to be seated. Slide to the back of the chair, sit tall, but comfortably. In other words, be aware enough to resist slouching at any point during your interview.

According to one expert in body language, you should practice a “power pose” before you go into the interview. In a TED Talk presentation, Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and Harvard associate professor, said many people sit before the interview, maybe going over notes and often are hunched over. That is considered a low power pose.

“If you sit hunched over and nervous before the interview, most likely you will perform that way during the interview,” said Laurel McMahan, workforce programs administration manager for the Idaho Department of Labor.

But if you assume a power pose for two minutes (somewhere you won’t be observed), such as standing up tall, arms up in “V” as in victory or as though receiving applause for a performance, you actually raise your testosterone and lower your cortisol which can give you an increased level of confidence. It’s kind of a “fake it and it becomes you” type of approach, McMahan said, quoting Cuddy.

McMahan viewed Cuddy’s TED Talk video as part of a class she attended about nonverbal communications and found it extremely valuable. She suggests reading up on the topic and watching other topical TED talks to become more aware of how your nonverbal cues and body language, as well as that of others, impact attitudes and outcomes.

Can you have too much nonverbal knowledge? Not really, said McMahan and the most of her class agreed. “We couldn’t see a negative side effect to learning as much as you can about nonverbals. Even though some people might use the knowledge to try to manipulate others, that doesn’t take away from the overall value of learning about it,” McMahan said.

More information on successful job interviewing – the verbal and nonverbal aspects – are available online from the Department of Labor at labor.idaho.gov/jobsearch. In addition, Labor’s Career Information System provides videos of best practices for interviewing and more on its website.

Some Labor local offices across the state also offer job search workshops that address interviewing. See the department’s calendar to find dates and locations at labor.idaho.gov/calendar.

— Jean Cullen, project coordinator
Idaho Department of Labor