You walk into a meeting room with an interviewer. From that moment, the person is unconsciously noticing the expression on your face, whether you are slouching or standing tall, what you are carrying in your hands and what you are wearing.
While we rarely consciously think about body language cues, we recognize when someone is demonstrating positive business etiquette, showing confidence or communicating weakness. Carrying yourself well in interviews, business presentations and other professional conversations gives you an advantage in how you are perceived.
The Handshake Is Your First and Last Impression
The first and last contact you have with an interviewer is the handshake. What you convey in that handshake is vital to creating a positive lasting impression. A handshake, when it is done well, conveys a sense of trust. A firm grip conveys confidence, while a weak handshake conveys weakness.
Ironically, a painfully firm grip conveys that you are compensating for a lack of confidence. Combine a firm handshake with a smile, and look directly into the other person’s eyes. Altogether, this gives a sense of a confident, likeable, trustworthy person.
Use Mirroring to Rapidly Create Rapport
Psychology tells us that we tend to like people who like us and share similar beliefs and attitudes. Two people who are sharing a similar emotion will tend to mirror each other’s gestures and postures. When you intentionally mirror the body language of the person you are talking to, you create an unconscious assumption in the other person that you agree with them and are “in sync” with what they are saying. This creates a positive feeling for you.
Another benefit is that the effect also works in reverse. When you mirror an interviewer, manager or colleague’s body language, you come to experience the same emotions he or she is experiencing, thus deepening the unconscious bond between you. If you both are seated, sit at a slight angle from the individual so you both aren’t directly facing each other, which can get uncomfortable. You’ll also want to make sure to situate yourself at a comfortable speaking distance from him or her.
The key to using mirroring in a professional conversation is to avoid crossing the line into mimicry. Your mirroring should be a sincere expression of the fact you are in agreement and share similar thoughts on a subject. When used well, mirroring rapidly creates a sense of rapport between you and an interviewer.
Hand Gestures Facilitate Convincing Speech
Many of us are prone to fidget when we’re nervous. We may play with our hair, click on a pen or crack our knuckles. Nervousness also shows in our speech with the “um’s” and “uh’s” we insert without thinking about them.
Incorporating hand gestures into your speech not only gives you something productive to do with your hands, but it also facilitates the area of the brain responsible for speech. This helps eliminate many of the empty filler words we say while searching for the right phrase to say.
Make sure your gestures aren’t wild. Keep your hands close to your body and don’t overuse them in conversation. When the other person is talking, place your hands flat on the desk or in your lap if you have a tendency to fidget.
Finally, don’t overuse gestures, or rely on them as a substitute for having something useful to say. In general, making positive use of body language opens up a new channel of communication to convey positive feelings, create rapport and build professional relationships.
Body Language Tips: What NOT to Do
Now that you have ideas on how to carry yourself in a business environment, please peruse the following infographic for body language habits to avoid in interviews and other professional conversations. The infographic comes courtesy of The Website Group and Swiss Canadian Capital.