How to behave during a job interview: your body language matters

Posted by Fed Finance Canada in Our employment advice
Posted at 12/02/2024
How to behave during a job interview: your body language matters
In an interview, your body language reflects your emotions and state of mind. A limp handshake, a distant gaze, or frequently running your hand through your hair can be quickly interpreted against you. 

Our accountancy recruitment experts are here to learn which gestures might give you away and which ones you should prioritize when facing an employer.

What is body language

Body language, also known as non-verbal communication, encompasses all the expressions, gestures, postures and body movements that communicate information without resorting to words. It is an important form of human communication, often reflecting a person's emotions, intentions and attitudes.

Importance of body language in an interview: a testimony to the recruiter

Gestures play an important role in job interviews, influencing - consciously or unconsciously - the recruiter in his choice of the right candidate. One example is synergology, the study of non-verbal language and gestures to decode a person's thoughts and emotions.

A well-rounded CV, unfailing motivation and a flawless speech are all great assets in a job interview. But they're not worth much if they don't match your attitude. In fact, the smallest details and seemingly insignificant gestures can reveal your emotions or elements of your personality, influencing the recruiter's opinion of you.

When you first meet someone, whether professional or not, it's inevitable: the brain makes this "assessment" to find out whether the person in front of it is serious, reliable and sympathetic. This feeling is based essentially on body language and facial expressions.

This almost unconscious feeling can be used as an asset in interviews: body language becomes an additional argument to convince the recruiter of your qualities. To do this, it's vital to measure the impact of each gesture. So get ready for your job interview with these tips.

Mastering non-verbal language in front of a recruiter

The more a gesture is repeated, the more noticeable and significant it becomes in the recruiter's eyes. Your body language in an interview can therefore either enhance your value or cause you to miss out on a position if it's not mastered.

Watch out for your posture

A too-relaxed posture, like slouching in your seat, may convey an air of nonchalance. Additionally, be cautious about incessantly crossing and uncrossing your legs, as this gesture might be interpreted as boredom.

To avoid these mistakes during interviews and project the image of a confident and engaged individual, it is advisable to maintain an upright posture with an extended neck and a slightly forward torso.

The handshake

The handshake carries significant meaning as well. A handshake that's too soft may project an image of passivity, shyness, or a lack of initiative. Conversely, a handshake that's overly firm can be associated with excessive confidence and a desire to dominate.

Prefer a firm handshake, without crushing the hand of the person in front of you, and look them in the eye. Generally, the recruiter is expected to initiate the handshake, but consider the context, as some individuals may feel uncomfortable. Given the changing landscape due to the pandemic, physical contacts have become less frequent, and sometimes a simple greeting from a distance is deemed sufficient.

The eye contact

Lack of eye contact is another aspect of interview body language that can reveal aspects of your demeanor. A brief or consistently downward glance may be interpreted as excessive shyness or insincerity. However, it's not necessary to maintain an intense gaze on the recruiter throughout the entire interview, as this might be unsettling.

A balanced approach involves establishing regular eye contact, particularly when you're speaking or listening attentively. This signifies your commitment and active interest in the conversation. Proper eye contact plays a crucial role in building a human connection, fostering trust between you and the recruiter.

The significance of crossing arms

Crossing your arms is a gesture frequently observed in a variety of contexts, including a job interview. In many cases, it can be viewed as a sign of defense, closure or resistance.

When candidates cross their arms during an interview, it can indicate a certain level of stress, nervousness or even mistrust. If you recognize this tendency in yourself when experiencing these emotions, make a conscious effort not to convey them non-verbally.

However, it's worth noting that at times, crossing your arms can be a means of feeling more at ease. In such cases, it's best to do so casually and accompanied by a smile, ensuring it doesn't create a negative impression for the recruiter.

Other forms of body language

Candidates in perpetual motion also have revealing behavior. Playing with your hair, scratching your chin incessantly or touching your hands betray a person prone to stress and lacking in self-confidence. In non-verbal language, these "tics" are indeed associated with a need to comfort oneself.

How to place your hands during a job interview?

During a job interview, hand positioning is an important aspect of body language. It's advisable to hold your hands in a natural, relaxed manner. Prefer a neutral placement, such as hands resting lightly on the table or on your lap when seated.

Playing with your hands excessively may indicate anxiety or a lack of confidence. Don't fiddle with objects or your fingers, as this can distract the recruiter and give an impression of uncertainty. As for the question of whether to place your hands on the table or on yourself, this depends on the context and your own comfort. Lightly resting your hands on the table can express openness and transparency, but it should be done casually.

What about smiling?

Last but not least, the smile plays a major role in the image we project. The lack of a smile can create an impression of coldness and establish a certain distance, while a genuine smile can evoke sympathy, confidence, and warmth. It's important to strike a balance, as an overly constant smile might be perceived as insincere or simplistic.

Best body language for interview

Body language has a real impact on how those around you perceive you, including in professional circles. Nevertheless, there's no need to try to control your every move. Being natural and interested is the best way to convince a recruiter.

Here's a short list of behaviors to adopt in job interviews, to help you develop your body language:

  • Make regular eye contact to show your commitment and interest.
  • Maintain an upright, open posture to express confidence, avoiding closed postures that can give an impression of insecurity.
  • Offer a firm but not too tight handshake as a sign of professionalism. If the recruiter doesn't extend a hand, greet him/her with a big smile.
  • Use natural, controlled gestures to reinforce your communication, avoiding agitated or excessive gestures that could be distracting.
  • Keep your facial expression positive and professional to convey a favorable attitude.
  • Show that you're listening attentively by nodding slightly and asking pertinent questions.
  • Smile naturally to create a positive atmosphere, but don't overdo it to avoid appearing too relaxed.
  • Avoid fleeting glances, but don't stare intently at the recruiter. Keep eye contact balanced.
  • Choose professional attire appropriate to the company's sector of activity.
  • Control your breathing to maintain calm and confidence, especially under stress.

If you can apply these tips, you should be all set for a successful job interview!

Have a winning attitude during your interview to maximize your chances!

The Fed Group is committed to giving you plenty of advice on how to succeed in finding a job.

And if you're looking for an accounting job, don't hesitate to look at our vacancies or send in your unsolicited application! 😊