Social skills and body language play an important part in the interview process, from the second we walk into the room.
Body language can tell us a lot about a person, for example, if they are confident, outgoing, withdrawn. It can take an interviewer about 7 seconds to make up their mind about a candidate, so first impressions are extremely important. A firm handshake, eye contact throughout the interview, and a smile is a good way to engage the interest of your interviewer. If a group or panel interview, remember to make eye contact with everyone in the room, and not just focus on one specific person. If you appear relaxed and confident, it will put everyone at ease. Remember, employers may be nervous too. Align your posture, don’t slump. This will make you look lethargic.
It is a good idea to use hand gestures when in an interview, as this shows you are comfortable in your current surroundings. Symbolic gestures can help explain points and aid communication, for example, emphasising multiple points with your fingers. However, this doesn’t come naturally to all. If using hand gestures makes you want to fidget, don’t use them. You don’t want to come across as an over-enthused octopus! Use your voice instead.
If you are prone to fidgeting, shaking, knee and leg wiggling, practise in front of a mirror. Or ask a friend to take you through a mock interview and film it. That way, you will be able to see for yourself your mannerisms and can change them accordingly.
Your voice is an extremely powerful tool. It shows others what you want to say, and how you want to say it. People can tell if you’re happy, sad, angry, excited; and this is all down to tone. Without changing your pitch you sound monotone. This could be seen as boring, and the last thing you want to do is to put your interviewer to sleep.
Remember to project without shouting. Also, adapt your pace of talking. We naturally speed our speech up when we are nervous. Slowing your speech down will avoid the risk of sounding nervous and incoherent. Take pauses to draw breath and try and avoid “verbal tics” such as “um”, “ah”, “you know”, “basically”. Always finish a sentence, don’t just let your voice trail off into oblivion. This will only confuse the interviewer.
The way you exit an interview is just as important as the way you entered. Repeat the handshake, smile at everyone and thank them for their time. Leave a good lasting impression. Tip: if you are prone to sweaty hands, rub a little talc on before you leave for interview.