You have the expertise, job history and experience to qualify for your dream job, but you are still not landing the position. You have prepared your content to perfection, so what else could it possibly be?
Your body language, presence and the silent conversation your body is having with others in the room might be having a huge effect on your success rate.
Neuroscience research shows that the subconscious rules our behavior 95-99% of the time. Without knowing it, most of us are undermining our interpersonal and professional credibility, simply because we’re not aware of what we’re communicating on a physical, vocal and energetic level.
So you google “body language interview tips” and you get stock answers that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. In the best case, the stars align and you eek by, just barely. In the worst case, they make you seem less human, too slick, and fake.
Why body language interview tips DON’T work:
When I first started practicing yoga, I was just following the form— the shape that my instructor’s body was making at the front of the class. I didn’t learn how to embody the asanas until I started to understand what the pose was supposed to accomplish.
Learning the form was good training, but at a certain point, in order to rise to the next level, I needed to understand why. I believe the same to be true for interview preparation and coaching. It’s not enough to learn the forms, you have to learn the why.
For example, standing tall or sitting up straight with good posture can quickly look arrogant or hollow. This exudes in-authenticity if all you’re doing is practicing the form or posturing.
In contrast, if you are able to stand powerfully, knowing that your feet need to be planted squarely beneath your hips and your weight, balanced equally between the balls of your feet and heels, then that gives you a presence of weight, authority and gravitas.
Or, if you allow yourself to sit with a straight spine in your seat, knowing that this is enabling your body to take a deep, diaphragmatic breath, then you are sending an authentic signal of confidence to your self, your nervous system and your audience.
The crucial tip that WILL make you stand out from the crowd:
Often we over prepare the content for these high-stakes situations but we don’t prepare physically or emotionally. We only take care of one part of ourselves. Any small thing can then knock us off our game and send us into a state of defensiveness and mental muddiness. This is not only communicated to your interviewer but it has a spiral effect on your own nervous system. So, here’s how you prepare efficiently and effectively for the success of your whole being:
Before the interview:
Practice diaphragmatic breathing. 4 counts on the inhale, 4 counts on the exhale. Put a hand on your belly to make sure that you are releasing as low down as possible. You can place a hand on your back to make sure that you are breathing three dimensionally. Try filling up your lungs from the bottom to top, imagining that your lungs are balloons filling with air.
Practice a powerful neutral stance, first while standing, then sitting down. Then, try transitioning from walking in, to sitting down, like you’ll be doing in your interview. At all times, your feet are planted firmly beneath you and are in parallel. Your hips are over your heels, your shoulders are over your hips. You can imagine that your head has a string pulling out the top and your chest is slightly raised.
Warm up your voice. Find a closed space and practice rumbling as low as you can go. Often we want this deep resonance in our voice. It adds authority and weight to our ideas. It also sends a message to our bodies and our interviewer that we are relaxed. When we’re nervous our voices tend to jump a pitch, often because tension has risen to our throat. The more you can practice a lower pitch, the more you will feel relaxed and send a message of authority.
Move your face and body, tensing and releasing, before you walk into the interview. Often, we’ll prepare by staring at a computer screen or reading or notes over and again with our face down and brow furrowed. Our face will then remain frozen in ways that don’t communicate our excitement or enthusiasm for the position.
During the interview:
Focus on this the other person. Often we’re so worried about how we’re coming across, we forget that others might be having the exact same experience. Try this, focus on the other person. What can you do to make them feel comfortable? In an awkward pause, be curious about them. Have a list of questions that you know you can pull out if needs be. Ask a question and then focus on listening and really hearing the answer.
Re-set the playing field. How often have you walked into an interview and you’ve been taken off guard? Something they said has thrown you for a loop, or something happened in your personal life, just before you walked through the door, or something in the room has made you uncomfortable. This type of experience can make or break an interview. If you do not take the time to make yourself comfortable, you not only fail to set yourself up for the possibility of success but your looking uncomfortable makes the interviewer feel uncomfortable. This also a great way to reset the playing field so that your interviewer knows that your’e in control.
Find your center and stay there. Often, we’ll lean forward to try to look engaged or lean back to try to look confident. Don’t do either, stay in your center. This is not only sending a signal of strength and ease to your interviewer but it is sending a signal of safety to yourself. When answering a question try to keep your head level, your eyes level and stay in your center. If you start to lean or swerve, notice what made you feel that this was necessary. You’ll probably begin to notice that you’ll only do this if you’re not sure about what you’re saying or in some ways trying to “dodge” a reaction from the other person. Try to ask and answer questions “head on.”
Plant your feet and point your toes where you want to direct your focus. Try noticing which way your toes naturally point. Your feet will naturally fall pointing towards where you instinctively want to go. Often, this is right out the door. Instead, try pointing them towards the interviewer to send the signal that you want to be exactly where you are right now.
Put your hands where people can see them and allow gestures to come into play. We want to see where your hands are. It makes us more comfortable. Maybe so we know you don’t have a hidden agenda. Allow your hands to rest comfortably in your lap or on the arms of the chair, but when there’s an opportunity, gesture with an open palm and from the heart.
Bonus tip for powerful communication:
Breath is connected to thought. So, inhale to find “inspiration” and exhale while giving your answer. Try looking at the interviewer while inhaling to “find” your answer, it will keep your answer connected to the person in front of you, enhancing your relationship and keeping you authentic and honest in your message.
There are many other tools and techniques I could teach you, these are just a few. But you can start to see the difference in technique thats specific to your needs. Imagine the difference between wearing an off the rack, one-size-fits-most, clothing item, and a tailored suit. The quality of interview experience you can have, after working with a coach who tailors to your unique communication style, is well worth the effort and the price.