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Body Language & Image

Candidates sometimes have great technical skills but present poorly in interview situations.

A vital component of the job interview is the issue of Body Language and Image. In a technical industry such as IT, some candidates are prone to being disadvantaged by wearing inappropriate dress and/or having poor body language – which is often caused by nervousness.

Body Language (non-verbal signals) often conveys more information than the content of what you say, but the non-verbal messages conveyed are largely picked up sub-consciously by others. And visual ‘first impressions’ can make the biggest contribution to an interviewer making their mind up either positively or negatively about you, usually within the first five minutes.

This is what makes your attention to your presentation vital to your success. Everything from your entry into reception to how you engage in conversation with interviewers is being subconsciously and consciously evaluated. This is why it is important to project yourself confidently, with a positive tone. Not brashly, not arrogantly, but by being prepared (researched), as well as appearing interested and upbeat about the role.

Initial interviewer impressions include: your entrance, handshake, eye contact and physical appearance. All of these facets comprise the impression you make, and can often convey a stronger message than what you actually say. Once a bad impression is made, the interviewer is likely to tune out or even think about closing down the interview early.

The components that an interviewer makes judgments on when first meeting someone include, but are not limited to:

1. Posture & Non-Verbal Behaviour

2. Clothes & Personal Grooming

1. Posture & Non-Verbal Behaviour

Avoid ‘programmer’s slouch’ from days spent hunched in front of a computer. Confidence is projected when you walk tall with your head up and shoulders back. Ideally your posture should embody a confident and friendly entrance into the reception and continue when you are greeted by the interviewer. Getting friends to evaluate you on this point in ‘mock interviews’ can provide fantastic feedback.

Always initiate the handshake when you greet the interviewer/s, as it will make you appear confident and friendly. Make sure your hand-shake is strong and forthright, and for as long as the interviewer shakes for. But be careful that you don’t apply a ‘death grip’. At the other end of the scale, avoid the ‘dead-fish’ handshake! A weak, floppy handshake can have a very negative effect on the interviewer’s opinion of your suitability for a role.

During the interview, sit up straight with your bottom into the back of the chair. This will ensure good posture and also project interest and alertness. You may wish to lean forward at certain stages during the conversation, but avoid appearing too eager or even desperate. Again, it’s a fine line that only practice will help you to get ‘right’.

Sitting with your arms crossed or behind your head can be seen as an arrogant or defensive gesture, so try to avoid this. Likewise for leg positions, both feet flat on the floor or the low-cross, where your legs are crossed over at the ankles is a good option.

If you are a person who uses their hands a lot whilst speaking, try to keep this to a minimum. This may distract the interviewer from your words. The less you use your arms and hands, the more powerful you will appear in the interview. Additionally, you can use a nod of the head to indicate understanding and agreement. It is advisable to smile your way through most of the interview – which will have the natural effect of putting the interviewer and yourself at ease.

Maintain comfortable eye contact throughout the interview. Looking directly at the person you are speaking to is interpreted as a gesture of interest, trust and confidence, so ensure that this is done throughout the interview, for a reasonable proportion of the time. Shy people may find it difficult to maintain eye contact for long and may even try to over-compensate – coming up with the equivalent of a ‘death stare’ is equally distracting.

2. Clothes and Personal Grooming

Grooming usually involves all the things that your mother told you about – such things as neat hair, clean finger nails, use of deodorant etc.

For men, being clean shaven or having neat facial hair is important. Ideally, clean your teeth before the interview so that your breath will smell fresh. Another option is to eat breath mints before the interview. However, ‘under no circumstances’ should you be either chewing gum or have a mint in your mouth during the interview! For women, light make-up and light or no perfume work best.

For cigarette smokers, please ensure that your breath, clothes and hair do not smell of stale cigarettes, as this can be a real negative with employers.

Suitable Clothing

It is important that you pay particular attention to appropriate attire. The general rule in the IT industry (at least for the interview) is to dress conservatively and professionally.

For men, a well maintained modern suit with a conservative tie is ideal. The safest option for IT is to avoid all loud colours and distracting patterns. Plain colour shirts, colour-matched ties and dark suits work best. Attention to detail such as wearing black polished business shoes and plain dark socks is also recommended.

For women, again, professional and conservative attire is ideal. Plain blouses or tops and a colour matched outfit works best. Well maintained and professional shoes are recommended.

Do not make the mistake of distracting the interviewer with anything that is loud, old or out of place, which could count against you. The general safest rule is to think ‘corporate’.