Keep Calm and Body Language

This guest post was written by Mike Ahern, a North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Career Devel­op­ment intern and grad­uate stu­dent studying higher edu­ca­tion at Salem State University. 

Body lan­guage; it’s impor­tant. Step­ping into the hiring manager’s office, shaking his/​hers hand and sit­ting down you have an invalu­able oppor­tu­nity to impact your chances of landing the job. Whether those chances increase or decrease is entirely up to you and how you present your­self. Below you’ll find a few simple but effec­tive ways to leave a lasting impact and project your brand as a poten­tial employee. Let’s talk body lan­guage strategies.

Smiling: Too often can­di­dates will miss this incred­ibly easy way to leave a lasting impact on the hiring man­ager. Due to the gravity of what get­ting a job “means” some­times can­di­dates will approach the inter­view in a very serious manner, which is under­stand­able. But con­sider this; would you want to hire a can­di­date who’s stuck in Blue Steel mode during the inter­view? (…yes that was a Zoolander ref­er­ence, you’re wel­come…) Smiling can convey a variety of mes­sages in our society not the least of which can be con­fi­dence, calm and last but not least a friendly demeanor.  Studies have even shown that smiling can greatly affect your self-​​perception, with more smiling leading to a hap­pier psyche.  Also keep in mind it’s impos­sible to smile 24/​7. Ever have to stand for a photo and keep smiling through mul­tiple takes? Not the most com­fort­able feeling in the world, it’s ok to stop smiling or dis­play a neu­tral facial expres­sion. Just don’t frown your way through the conversation.

Pos­ture:  Job inter­view or not, you should sit up straight. For a variety of rea­sons cor­recting bad pos­ture will work won­ders for your overall health. As far as body lan­guage is con­cerned, slouching or other dis­plays of poor pos­ture can neg­a­tively impact a hiring manager’s impres­sion of you. More often than not leaning back or slouching down can por­tray boredom or dis­in­terest. Con­versely leaning too far in can crowd the inter­viewer and pos­sible invade their per­sonal space. Try to settle for a happy medium with a straight back and atten­tive expres­sion. Sit up in the seat and posi­tion your feet evenly apart in a com­fort­able manner. Also pay atten­tion to your arm posi­tion. Don’t cross your arms as it can imply that you are uneasy or closed off. Under­standing the impact of pos­ture on body lan­guage can go a long way to pro­jecting your brand as an invested poten­tial employee

Eye Con­tact: In Western cul­ture eye con­tact is an impor­tant part of any con­ver­sa­tion. It can por­tray respect, atten­tive­ness and under­standing. Equally impor­tant, it shows the hiring man­ager you can focus on the task at hand. Making eye con­tact and fol­lowing the con­ver­sa­tion is vital. If you are dis­tracted and taking time to con­sider the generic art­work on the walls, chances are good you’ve missed an oppor­tu­nity to con­nect with the inter­viewer or even worse, missed a ques­tion. Sim­ilar to the con­cept of neu­tral pos­ture, there is a fine line between too much eye con­tact and not enough. Intently staring at the inter­viewer without breaking eye con­tact can be seen as aggres­sive or, quite frankly, awk­ward. On the other hand shifting your eyes back and forth between the inter­viewer and the floor isn’t a good look (pun intended). Con­sider fol­lowing along with con­ver­sa­tion, fre­quently making eye con­tact with the inter­viewer while briefly breaking eye con­tact to con­sider a point or take time to think of an answer.

Ulti­mately there are hun­dreds of body lan­guage strate­gies to subtly impact your chances of landing the job. These are three simple yet often over­looked aspects of body lan­guage that can por­tray an invested poten­tial employee. Another thing to con­sider is that if you are an NU stu­dent or alumni (which you prob­ably are if you’re on this blog) log into Husky Career Link on our web­site www​.north​eastern​.edu/​c​a​r​e​ers. Nav­i­gate to “Inter­view Stream” at the bottom of the home page. Here is a tool pro­vided at no cost to cur­rent and former North­eastern Uni­ver­sity stu­dents where you can lit­er­ally film your­self during an inter­view then reel back the tape and take in how you present through body lan­guage. After all, keep in mind that only you can pre­vent frowning, poor pos­ture and a lack of eye con­tact when inter­viewing for a position.

Mike Ahern is a Career Devel­op­ment Intern at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity in Career Devel­op­ment. Cur­rently he is pur­suing a grad­uate degree in Higher Edu­ca­tion in Stu­dent Affairs at Salem State Uni­ver­sity. Con­nect with Mike on LinkedIn at  https://​www​.linkedin​.com/​i​n​/​m​i​k​e​a​h​e​rn1 or on Twitter @MIkeAAhern