In the 1970s, studies by Professor Mehrabian of the University of California in Los Angeles suggested that body language accounts for 55% of all face to face communication, while tone accounted for 38% and words only 7%.
These percentages have been challenged by other studies, but there is a general agreement that non verbal communication is as, or more meaningful than verbal communication, especially when creating first impressions.
When clients feedback to us how our our candidates did at interview, their body language is almost always a factor.
Recurring themes we have identified in the feedback include these tips for candidates:
1. Use a firm handshake. Prospective employers often find the ‘limp fish’ handshake to be cold, disrespectful, distant or all three. Conversely, the ‘knuckle-buster’ handshake is also something you should avoid. A good rule of thumb is to use the same pressure you would use to open a door.
2. Maintain good eye contact, but don’t stare. Displaying good eye contact is a sign of confidence and engagement. Avoiding it can make you seem intimidated, diffident or dishonest. On the other hand, eye contact shouldn’t be turned into a stare, which can seem challenging and be discomforting.
3. Avoid touching your face or hair. This can be interpreted as indicating nervousness or dishonesty.
4. Be mindful of your feet. This is especially important when arriving and departing a meeting. We unconsciously point our feet in the direction we want to go, and are unconsciously aware of where other’s feet are pointing. If your feet are pointing away from the interviewer (e.g towards the door) you are sending a signal that you are impatient to leave.
5. Be unencumbered. Avoid having any small items in front of you or on your lap during an interview. Handbags should be hung up on a the back of a chair of with your coat. It goes without saying that your mobile phone should be nowhere in evidence!
6. Don’t look at your watch. This immediately send the signal (intended or not) that you are not engaged in the interview and that you would rather be somewhere else.
7. Sit on your chair properly. Leaning back on your chair can indicate distance and or overconfidence. Leaning forward can imply aggression or confrontation. Rocking or swivelling on your chair is just childish.
8. Avoid folding your arms or crossing your legs. This implies either defensiveness, arrogance or combativeness.
9. Mirror. One sure sign of engagement is to mirror your interviewer’s body language. This should be understated, but it can be immensely powerful.
10. Smile! This is probably the single most important body language you can use. It demonstrates happiness, confidence, good nature and engagement. It will also automatically have a positive effect on your tone and demeanour. It is for this reason that call centres often instruct their operators to smile when talking on the phone. Even though their customers can’t see it, they can ‘hear’ the smile in the voice.
At Vallum, we help train our candidates on the best approaches to an interview. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.