How to speak body language during an interview

Controlling your body—including your eyes and your clothes—is all part of presenting your message.


Controlling the message isn’t just about knowledge and words. It can also be about controlling your body—and imparting the right body language.

When it comes to the in-person, one-on-one interview there are some important things to put into practice to keep yourself in control. They are the finishing touches to a successful interview.

The eyes tell a thousand lies: For the duration of the interview look at the person you’re talking to. No one else. Try watching an interview where the subject is looking all over the place. You will probably miss his or her message, let alone believe it.

The hands have it: Your hands will want to do distracting things during an interview. So let them. But little things—not big things. Keep them low, no higher than your chest, and move them naturally to express yourself. It can be a useful release of nervous energy. Otherwise they’ll want to plant themselves in your pockets, run themselves through your hair, touch your face, command your arms to fold, or force other parts of your body to start moving around uncomfortably. Give your hands a little air, but keep them low.

Fashionista blister: Ever been distracted by someone wearing really bad clothes? Seriously out of style? Colours and patterns that have an epileptic flaring effect on the TV screen? When dressing for an interview keep the flares, big shoulder pads, and prized mustard safari suit on hold for your next big social occasion.

I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date:
You can be the greatest expert around, but if you’re running late your interview could be a calamity. Don’t risk becoming a bundle of nerves. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the interview—getting out of the office, through the traffic, and settled in well before it starts. You don’t want to start your interview with high blood pressure and a racing pulse.

Artificial intelligence: This is the opposite of being late. It’s about feeling good. For you, that might be going to the gym ahead of the interview, getting a haircut, or having your favorite breakfast. It may simply be doing your normal routine, but ensuring you arrive for the interview at least 10 minutes early, having done your practice. But it certainly shouldn’t involve having a drink or three ahead of the interview.

Mirror image: The three best ways to get better at interviews are to practice, practice, and, yep, practice. The best way to practice is in front of a mirror. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a TV, radio, newspaper, or website interview. Whatever. Close the door, leave your ego outside, and talk about your key points and anecdotes while looking yourself in the eye. You will automatically critique and improve your performance as you go along. When the interview is on for real, you’ll be glad you looked yourself in the eye so many times. You’ll know how you’re coming across.

This blog is an excerpt from “The Little Red Book of PR Wisdom,” a new resource for 2013, by Brian Johnson, an award-winning journalist and leading PR practitioner.

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