Just 7% of actual communication is with words, the rest of 93% is non-verbal: it’s the tone of our voice, our pitch, posture, the micro expressions on our face, and different gestures we use. So what is more important? What we say, or how we say it?
We might not be aware of what our body language communicates: does it reinforce our words or reveal a white lie? If we’re facing someone trained in interpreting body language, we might unknowingly ‘say’ way more than the carefully prepared speech.
With 55% of our non-verbal communication being about our body language and 38% about the tone of our voice, we have to be prepared for more than the standard interview questions. Here are some tips on how to use non-verbal communication to your advantage in an interview.
Before we start, think about situations you are familiar with and topics you are confident speaking about. You will most likely see that your body language is in sync with what you are saying. If you find it hard to picture yourself, then examine one of your friend’s body language as an example.
Tip 1 – The perfect handshake
A handshake is such a simple thing. Yet, if not done properly it has the potential to give the wrong impression. The perfect handshake is given with medium pressure and it exudes confidence.
Tip 2 – Maintain eye contact and smile
When we feel confident and are among friends we maintain eye contact and smile a lot. In these situations, keeping a direct eye contact comes naturally because we pay attention and are interested in the conversation. We should mirror this behavior in an interview.
Tip 3 – Keep your posture composed and your hand gestures natural
To picture an appropriate posture, imagine a relaxed conversation while having a coffee at your favorite coffee shop, for example. You probably sit straight, as your mom taught you. Your hand gestures accentuate what you say, but if in doubt, be economical. Keep them in a neutral position, on your lap or on the table.
It is good to lean in slightly as it shows engagement and to nod every once in awhile.
An extra tip concerns head-tilting. It signifies sympathy and active listening, so it is OK to use, but don’t go overboard as it signals submission on a subconscious level.
Tip 4 – Speak slowly with pauses
Speak clearly, using shorter sentences, which come to the point fast. A controlled voice conveys confidence and taking the time to breath will help you calm down. Feel free to take a couple of seconds before you answer questions.
If you know that you will get too nervous, make sure to take a bottle of water with you or accept a glass of water in case it is offered. It is hard to speak with confidence when your mouth is as dry as the Saharan desert.
Tip 5 – Mirroring and practice
Still unsure? Try mirroring the interviewer discreetly. This does not mean to copy the same movements, but the interviewer’s body language can be your point of departure.
Another great way to prepare is to practice in front of a mirror. You can also practice with friends and this is optimal as they can reveal some mistake you might not see by yourself. If friends are not around you can always tape yourself with your smartphone.
Feel like you want to know more? Read body language guru Allan Peas’ book ‘The Definitive Book of Body Language’ to get more insight not just into your but your interviewer’s body language.
Now that you have your body language in check, it’s time to peek into that closet of yours and pick an appropriate outfit for the big day.
Further reading: Body language interview mistakes