Body language is important. Very important. You can say what you want during a job interview, but if your body language tells a different story, you may seem insecure, unreliable or arrogant.

In previous articles we wrote about the importance of body language before and during your job interview. In this article we take it one step further with detailed tips to use your body language as a powerful means of communication.

Body language as a means of communication

In this article you will read 16 tips to keep your body under control during your next job interview. The tips below are based on scientific research and experience and guidelines from organizations such as the FBI. References are included at the end of this article.

As Samuel L. Jackson put it in the 1998 blockbuster ‘The Negotiator’: “The eyes can’t lie!” (warning: this movie clip contains profanity)

The first handshake

1. Initiate the handshake

Don’t wait for the other person to initiate the first handshake. Go ahead and initiate the first handshake if you can. This shows that you feel confident and that you are ready to start the interview.

2. Avoid sweaty hands

Do you sweat excessively? Then please refresh yourself before you enter the building. Make sure you always carry a handkerchief with you to dry your hands and to wipe your forehead and neck.

If you get sweaty hands just before your interview, then dry them subtly on your knees when you get up from your chair. Avoid clammy hands, as they can give the impression that you are nervous and/or uncertain.

3. Learn to give a firm handshake

Stretch your fingers and make a 45° angle with your thumb. Let the skin between your thumb and index finger touch your partner’s hand and then close your fingers around his or her hand.

Avoid giving a soft handshake. This may give the impression that you feel uncertain. Don’t squeeze your partner’s hand either. Such a handshake may give the impression that you are too dominant or that you want to (over)compensate for your insecurity.

4. Maintain eye contact

Try to ensure a natural smile, a firm voice and constant eye contact during the introduction with your conversation partner(s). If your eyes go away from your conversation partner(s) you may seem insecure, dishonest, indifferent or downright arrogant.

Your posture during your job interview

5. Sit up straight

This may seem like stating the obvious, but if your seat has side rails you may be tempted to lean to the left or to the right. Try to avoid this. If you are ‘hanging’ loosely in your chair then you can come across as careless and/or indifferent.

Therefore try to sit up straight and to keep your back against the backrest. If you lean forward during your interview, then keep your shoulders low. Don’t make yourself too ‘big’. Also make sure that you respect your conversation partner’s personal space. Otherwise you will leave too much of an impression.

6. Stay calm and sit quietly

Do not wiggle in your chair and keep your legs still. As we described earlier, try to balance between movement and a formal posture. Someone who is using his hands and arms too much can be perceived as disturbing. The same applies to someone who is not moving at all.

7. Don’t try to hide your stress too much

Don’t try to hide your stress too much. You want to come across as natural and pleasant to talk with. If you show healthy stress then you will give the impression that the job is important to you. If you look too stoically then you may come across as indifferent.

What to do with your head and your eyes?

8. Eye contact while you are speaking

You may have multiple conversation partners in a job interview. Try to give everyone the same amount of eye contact when it is your turn to speak. You can never know whose arguments will decide about your future. Try to show the same amount of respect for every conversation partner.

9. Eye contact when someone else is speaking

Try to maintain eye contact with the person who is speaking. This way you will show that you are sincere and interested. When someone asks a question, look him or her in the eye at the beginning of your answer and then shift your eyes to the other conversation partners.

10. Eye contact when you answer a question

Try not to look look away or turn your eyes downward when you give an answer to a question. It may make you feel comfortable, but it can also give the impression that your are insecure or that you aren’t telling the truth. Look your conversation partner in the eyes and shift your eyes to the other people at the table afterwards.

11. Nod only when you agree

Some people are nodding their heads constantly to show that they understand what the interviewer is saying. This can be perceived as (too) obedient or not sincere. Therefore, only nod your head if you agree, when you understand an important point and when you want to invite your conversation partner to continue talking.

Also, keep your head still as much as possible and / or mirror the movements of the head of your conversation partner. If you subtly mirror the (head) movements of your conversation partner, you implicitly show that you agree with what is being said.

Your arms and hands as a means of communication

12. Never cross your arms

Crossed arms give a ‘closed’ impression. As a result, crossed arms are often interpreted as a symbol of uncertainty, unreliability or lack of interest. Try to avoid this by not crossing your arms.

13. Use you arms and hands (only) to emphasize your story

Use your arms (only) to emphasize your message. Practice this at home in front of the mirror and/or with your friends and family. On the internet you can find lots of instructional videos that demonstrate how you can emphasize different messages with your arms and hands.

14. What to do with your arms and hands if you are not speaking

Put your hands on your lap or on the table. If you put your arms and hands on the table, then gently lean over to your conversation partners. This way you emphasize that you are listening attentively. You can fold your hands loosely, but make sure you don’t squeeze the blood out of your fingers.

15. Avoid a tense impression with your hands and fingers

Holds and move your hands in a calm and natural manner when you are talking. Try to keep your hands still if you are not talking. Don’t tick on the table and don’t make other any rhythmic movements that can reveal your stress (and that can irritate your conversation partners).

16. Don’t touch yourself too much

This may sound odd, but it is a natural reflex to touch your nose, cheeks and lips when you are speaking. It is a common way to soothe yourself.

Try to avoid this. If you touch your face too much or if you play with your hands, fingers or jewelry you may be perceived as insecure and/or unreliable.

Questions or suggestions?

Do you have questions or suggestions regarding the content of this article? Do not hesitate to share them with us through the contact form below. Did you like this article? Then please do not hesitate to share it with your friends.

More information about body language

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In our next article we will discuss a.o. how you can use your shoulders, torso, face and legs to emphasize your message.

You can’t wait for our next article? On you will find a lot of information and tips on body language. The books Gezichtlezen of Chi An Kuei and What Every Body is Saying of ex-FBI agent Joe Navarro will also give you lots of practical information and a good basis to use your body as a means of communication.


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13 replies
  1. Chuck Masterson says:

    People can’t fake body language. So the secret is to think like you want to be seen. If you want confident body language, then you have to practice thinking about a time in your life when you were confident and your body will follow your thoughts.

  2. Alejandra says:

    Nice article, thank you very much for this tips, very useful indeed. One question, of course in an interview, the interviewee might get nervous for normal reason but, could it be thought that if a person feels surrounded by a comfortable environment (space, people… etc) the posture and the hands movement will flow naturally avoiding any of the mistakes here mentioned?

    • Maddali Laxmi Swetha says:

      In interview, out of 100% only 10% is given for body language and 90% depends on how well he or she good at answering to their questions or mainly performance in interview is very important.

  3. Mohamed says:

    Thank you very much , I needed this information specially those relevant to what to do with hands
    Tomorrow is my interview
    Thank you

  4. Richard Kwadzo Dela Asare says:

    Great piece. I am actually searching for these public speaking skills in order that I can properly locate myself in academia and industry. Thank you very much. This is timely!


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