Body Language

Positive body language will help you be successful

Do you want to understand how your body language can help get the edge over other candidates?

Knowing the basics of non-verbal behaviour and being able to control it will make you appear confident, even if you are not! It will create that all important rapport, help the interviewer warm to you and will make answering questions feel a lot more comfortable.

The important elements are:-

  • Matching verbal and non-verbal behaviours which means being congruent,
  • Understanding positive and negative non-verbals,
  • Maintaining eye contact,
  • Listening actively,
  • Mirroring,
  • Reducing unhelpful non-verbals,
  • Taking it seriously.
Managing your body language is not acting or being false. In fact it is a high level skill. As humans we are attuned to find meaning in the slightest movements of the muscles of our face, eyes and lips as well as the gestures we make with our fingers and hands, and our general body posture.

What we call instinct is linked with reading these subtle signs of human behaviour. In fact research has shown we believe non-verbals more than the spoken word. If there is a mismatch between what we say and our body language the receiver may feel suspicious or distrustful without knowing why.

So although body language is to some extent out of our control we know that some of the main signals can be managed and can work to our advantage.

Matching Verbal and Non-Verbal Behaviour

Saying yes while shaking your head is the classic body language mismatch. In an interview context you cannot describe yourself as a confident communicator if you cannot speak clearly or make eye contact. Be congruent. If you say you are confident, be confident. If you say you are a good listener, show you are listening. Be authentic and positive and your non-verbals should naturally follow.

Positive and Negative Non-Verbals

Being false is not going to help you but using positive body language as appropriate will. Here is a list of what to use and what to avoid.


  • Good eye contact –but do not stare!
  • Leaning forward slightly in your chair,
  • Tilting your head slightly to the side and maintaining eye contact whilst listening,
  • Natural open lipped smiling (closed lips look fake)
  • Palms open – i.e. not clenched,
  • Keeping your head up,
  • Nodding –but not too enthusiastically,
  • Sitting in a similar body posture to the interviewer,


  • Folding or crossing arms and legs (defensive,
  • Pointing your fingers to make a point (aggressive,
  • Looking down when speaking (lying,
  • Avoiding eye contact (shy, nervous)
  • Frowning (disagreeing)
  • Scratching nose or rubbing head (feeling uncomfortable, being caught out),
  • Fidgeting (nerves and is distracting,
  • Fiddling with hair, face, pen etc (annoying).

Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact creates rapport, a feeling of confidence, shows interest and that you are listening. In fact some believe eye contact is the key non-verbal in creating good relationships

At the interview – always maintain eye contact when the interviewer is asking questions. When you are answering you will break eye contact from time to time. It is natural to break contact after 5 or so seconds otherwise you will appear to be staring which can be intimidating.

Listening Skills

In an interview it not only important to listen to the questions being asked. It is important to show you are listening. This means active listening skills. The interviewer will know you are listening if you:

  • Make eye contact
  • Nod in agreement
  • Make listening noises ‘Mmm, etc’
  • Smile but don’t grin or laugh!
  • Lean forward
  • Tilt your head to one side

Of course in an interview you must not only look as though you are listening you must also:-

React to what is being said and give appropriate answers. This means concentrating on the interviewers’ questions whist simultaneously assessing what is being asked and how you need to answer. This takes practice and considerable effort especially when you are nervous. Practice active listening in advance to see how well you do.


Ask a friend or colleague to fire some typical interview questions at you. Don’t answer them. Instead listen to the question. Summarise back what the interviewer wants to know and the salient points you would cover. Say ‘you are asking me ……’


Research shows that when in the company of those we feel comfortable with our body language naturally matches theirs. It is how we gain rapport with others. Mirroring is copying the other person’s body language in a way that is not blindingly obvious which would irritate but in a subtle way that indicates you are in tune. It should be a natural process but you can help nature along by being aware of:-

  • how the person is sitting,
  • the gestures they make,
  • their facial expressions,
  • how they are speaking -the tone of their voice, how quickly they speak.

The more you can be in harmony with them without over-doing it the more relaxed and comfortable you should fee and the more confident they will feel in you.

Non-Verbals to keep in check.

If you disapprove or disagree with what the interviewer is saying or asking, try to keep your emotions to yourself. For example tutting, eyes rolling to the ceiling, a shake of the head or butting in are all negatives.

Certainly disagree if you want but try not to let it show too obviously until you are sure of your ground. The point is you are trying to be successful in getting the job offer. Any reservations can be addressed once you have secured it and you actually have a decision to make.

For tips on how to 'Dress for Success' click here.

More on First Impressions and Body Language click here..

Body Language to Handling the Interview

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