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Body Language

Three secrets to successful Interview Body Language

By Alexandra Sleator

During an interview, you might know what to say, but are you sure about how to say it? Alexandra Sleator gives you three body language secrets to make a good impression during an interview. 

Why is body language so important? Because it reflects your true thoughts. Unless you are a fantastic actor or an accomplished hustler, your body language will betray your true sentiments. If you speak sweet words to someone you in fact dislike, it is the tension in your shoulders and your stiff smile (among other things!) which will tell them that you do not mean what you say. In short, while it may be possible for some of us to easily lie with words, only very few among us can lie with our body as well. So, never lie in an interview because chances are that the interviewer will pick up tell-tale signs – and they will do so unconsciously – that you are not being fully truthful. So, here the three fundamental elements of your non-verbal communication:

Your eyes

Making eye contact comes across as a mark of honesty so, while you speak to the interviewer as well as when you listen to them, maintain eye contact. But beware, contact does not mean staring: it means looking at the person, showing genuine interest for what they are asking or sharing, paying attention to their reaction when you speak – in short, I am talking here about making an eye connection, ensuring that you create rapport with the person. In case of a panel interview, you will need to move your head slowly – but surely! – to ensure you make eye contact with each of the panel members – forget one and they won’t forget you! A last word about eye contact. A friend of mine has a dangerous habit: he frowns when he concentrates. Can you imagine the impression he makes in interviews (or in meetings for that matter)?  For this gentleman, preparing for interviews is about remembering not to concentrate so much. What is the moral of this story: it’s not just your eyes you but your entire facial expression that you need to consider. While it starts with your eyes, it certainly does not end there. 

Your smile

Your smile is your most powerful piece of body language. You see, whereas eye contact and the next element I will address are subject to cultural variations, no such constraint applies to the smile. A genuine smile is a universal sign of warmth that you can send knowing it will be understood and welcome by all. I recently experimented with smiling at complete strangers while having my hands done at a nail bar: every person – one of whom was a man – smiled back. What was going on there? Let’s think about it together: what goes through your mind when someone smiles at you? How about “I feel comfortable with them”? “They seem like a nice person”? “Our meeting will go well”? “This person is on the same wavelength as me”? “They like me”? A smile elicits all sorts of positive thoughts, it puts us at ease even with a complete stranger and it creates the first thread of trust. So keep smiling and develop that rapport, that trust during the interview. Don’t think you need to look serious in order to convey poise. If you don’t smile, you will in fact have to work twice as hard in order to be credible!

Your handshake


In the XXIth century, what remains of this custom is that you need to show both your hands even though you use only one to shake. So it’s all right to be carrying a briefcase – or a handbag for ladies – but do not to have your hand in your trouser pocket!



The art of the successful handshake is as follows:

  • extend your arm at a roughly 45 degree angle from the floor
  • expose your palm at a roughly 20 degree angle from the vertical
  • ensure your hand is firm with fingers slightly bent back
  • open as wide an angle as possible between the thumb and the index
  • get a good ‘web to web’ contact as your fingers wrap around the other person’s hand

In this fashion, you will project both strength of character and openness of mind!

So there you have it: to get your interview off to a brilliant start and in fact win over your interviewer before you have uttered a single word, just gaze into their eyes, smile and shake their hand! You may want to practice – with someone who will give you feedback rather than simply in front of your mirror. You need to know about any little facial habits which may come across as weird to a stranger. I remain a firm believer that preparation is a key success factor in interviews and that this applies to body language as well. But, you know, once that door opens: forget your body language, be sincere and share of yourself, of the warm person you know you can be and of the wonderful professional they desperately need!

© Coaching For Inspiration, 2013

If this article resonated with you, please leave a comment (see below). If you would like to write to Alexandra directly, click here. To see Alexandra’s bio on France in London, go there.


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