J Patrick + Associates Blog

Points of Performance: Body Language Basics

Posted by Daniel Sullivan on Mon, Sep 02, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

Points of Performance: Body Language Basics

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When you’re looking to achieve the best possible performance during an interview, you want every possible advantage.  Your image projection can say as much, or more, about you than your remarks, so let us offer you a few tips to help you succeed in attaining the upper hand. Here are a few things that you should look out for:

First of all, observe the interviewer’s non-verbal cues and let their body language guide you during the interview.   If during an interview, you notice that the interviewer is tilting his or her head sideways, it’s generally an indication that they are engaged and listening.  In other words, this is a great sign that things are going well.  Stay on target, maintain your heading, and carry on.

Another “tell” you can pick up from your interviewer’s body language is if he or she is biting their lip.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is the interviewer’s way of trying to act seductive.  Actually, biting of the lip is usually a sign of anxiety or that you’ve touched upon a sensitive subject.  Unless you believe the topic is critical to the narrative of your interview, you should gracefully transition into a new topic.

The next non-verbal cue to look for (but hopefully never see) is for the interviewer to stretch or rub the back of his or her neck.  This signals boredom. Change the topic--let them know you’ve digressed and want to get back to business.

Also, know that if at any point in the interview the interviewer begins to move their head from side to side, this is an almost universal sign of disagreement.  This signal of disapproval may be subtle, rather than the clear non-verbal “NO” you learned as a child.  Don’t just let this slip by; instead, take advantage of the moment and use it as an opportunity to shape the agenda of the interview.  For example, call them out on the point of contention by saying something like “I have a feeling that you don’t agree” or “What part of what I’m saying is not sitting right with you?”  They’ll have no problem letting you know. This is a chance to refocus the narrative in a way that is advantageous for you.

Our last tip concerns the fundamental necessity to make eye contact throughout your interview.  In most cultures, and in most situations, making eye contact is a key aspect of how body language communicates internalized sensibilities.  If the interviewer is making eye contact with you, it means they are confident and listening to you intently.  If they are not, it may mean that they are nervous, distracted, or possibly uninterested in the topic.  If this happens, take the lead in a quiet, but self-assured manner.  Hopefully, this will make them feel more comfortable. However, if eye contact continues to decrease then you can bet the interviewer is losing interest.  It may be time to change the subject or conclude the discussion.

By Jake Pinto