Everyone gets nervous for job interviews and tries to prepare great responses to the interviewers potential questions. But maybe what you say is not as important as how you say it…or what your body language is saying during a job interview.

Are you communicating all of your best traits in an interview? What is your interview body language and nonverbal behavior saying to the interviewer?

Here are a few tips to give you the extra body language edge to get the job:

1. Have One Bag

This might sound crazy, but research has found that when people carry more than one item they look disorganized, messy and scattered. If you are a man carry one briefcase  if you are a woman have one purse with your notes or resume in the bag. Also, jackets count. If possible have the receptionist or secretary take your coat and hat before walking into the interview. This simple trick is a nonverbal way to make you look more sharp and put together.

2. Don’t Forget the Back of Your Shoes!

One study found that female interviewers look at the back of a person’s shoes in almost every interview – and this is the last impression you leave them with. So be sure you have them buffed, not scuffed.

3. Smile Right

A lot of interview advice says that people should smile more in interviews, but this is not always a good idea. Whats better is to smile right. People who smile too much are actually perceived as submissive and weak! Many studies have shown that people in positions of power actually do not smile much at all but rather smile at the right time.

You want to smile when you first meet the person and shake their hand, when you talk about subjects you are passionate about and at the end of the interview while saying goodbye. This is especially important for females–smiling too much because you are nervous or trying to build rapport actually does the opposite, it makes females look less smart not more friendly.

4. Sit Right

If possible try to sit at a slight angle from the interviewer. Our brains are funny organs, research has shown that when we sit directly across from someone we recall less of what was said, we are more negative and feel they are opposing us. Simply sitting at a slight angle can change this automatic brain bias.

5. Don’t Contract, Don’t Expand

In an interview you want to take up the right amount of space. When we are nervous we tend to ‘turtle’ which is when you bring your neck down and your shoulders up to take up less space. We also try to make ourselves as small as possible–women cross their legs, men fold their arms over their chest. This shows the interviewer you are insecure and can make it look like you have something to hide. So relax your arms, plant your feet and don’t let your body show your tension.

Occasionally men will do the opposite, they will try to claim territory by taking up as much space as possible, draping an arm over the couch or spreading legs wide while they talk. This is very aggressive and will make the other person taking subconscious (or even conscious note) of the territorial move.

Insider Tip: Sometimes when people are nervous they tend to grip the arms of their chair or clench their fists at their sides. This subconsciously sends the signal that you are preparing for battle or are defensive. Take deep breaths and keep your hands loose and relaxed.

6. Start in the Parking Lot

When possible start all of your nonverbal tips in the parking lot before you even enter the building. There are two reasons for this:

Bosses, colleagues, interviewers might see you in the parking lot or in the elevator and you only get one chance to make a first impression. I have heard many stories of people who were friendly in an elevator and that person ended up being one of the people who made a hiring decision.

7. Power Body Language

Don’t forget how important body language is in an interview–practice your nonverbal communication as well as your verbal answers. 

No matter what, go in and be yourself. When you are not genuine, people pick up on it. So take a deep breath, try to keep these tips in mind and show ’em what you have to offer!

Cheat Sheet:

coolest infographic of body language tips for interviewees, best body language for job interviews

About Vanessa Van Edwards

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and behavioral investigator.

I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.

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