Successful interview body language

There's more to an interview than how good your English is.

I know if you're a non-native English speaker you worry about sounding professional when you speak English.

But your body language while you're speaking is just as important as your English.

Body language in interviews

How to use body language successfully in an interview

Body language is an important part of any interview. 

Do you know what body language is? It's the way you use your body to communicate. We're always communicating with our bodies (whether we know it or not).

Good body language will help people hear what you say.

7 rules for good body language during interviews

1. Remember your posture 

  • Stomach in 
  • Chest out 
  • Shoulders back 
  • Back straight
  • Head up
  • Feet 6 to 8 inches apart
  • Women: you may cross your legs at the knee or ankle
  • Men: keep your feet on the floor
  • Don't cross your arms

2. Shake hands 

In America we shake hands when meeting strangers in business situations. This is also the custom in other English-speaking countries. You may also shake again on leaving - follow the interview's lead.

  • Grip hands palm to palm - shake 3 times maximum (I usually do 2)
  • Firm grip - women, don't offer a limp hand
  • Maintain eye contact during shake
  • Smile

3. No touching

In English-speaking countries we don't touch each other in professional situations, except to shake hands at meeting and leaving. Don't kiss your interviewer on the cheek or touch them on the arm, even if those are acceptable forms of touch in your country. 

Don't come too close to the other person except when shaking hands. Standing too close makes a lot of Westerners uncomfortable. Sit across the table, not in the chair next to them.

4. Make eye contact 

In some countries, such as Japan, it is considered rude to make constant eye contact. In the United States, however, the right amount of eye contact shows good manners and makes candidates appear likable.

  • Look your interviewer in the eye; don't look at the wall or table
  • Keep your eyes steady; don't move your eyes back and forth 
  • Keep the amount of eye contact the same for the whole interview

5. Move your face

  • Smile - but not too much! You don't want to seem like a crazy person.
  • Don't frown 
  • Look interested when the interviewer is talking, not bored
  • Laugh if they say something funny

Is this advice too obvious? Maybe, but some people get nervous during interviews and they forget to make facial expressions.

6. Use your gestures wisely

Think about how you are moving your hands. Some people (like me) move their hands too much and it's distracting or confusing. 

  • Use your hand movements to underline your points

  • Don't use extra movements

7. Sound like you're talking to a friend

Your voice should sound like you're talking to a friend, not flat.

When you talk to a friend, speaking normally, you probably emphasize some words in the sentence. We all naturally stress some words more than others.

Here's an example of the beginning of a response to the question, "Tell me about yourself."

"I’m from Xiamen, which is the west of China. I’m a senior at Xiamen University, one of the best engineering schools in China. I’m majoring in Chemical Engineering."

If you're speaking normally, you'll probably emphasize these words:

"I’m from Xiamen, which is the west of China. I’m a senior at Xiamen University, one of the best engineering schools in China. I’m majoring in Chemical Engineering."

This example sounds natural.

Many non-native speakers put the same emphasis on each word, so it is hard to understand. 

An interviewer judges more than your English

Your interviewer will evaluate your English during the interview, but they are not just thinking about how you answer questions and if you know the right grammar rules. They are also evaluating your personality, and one of the ways they do this is through body language.

Your goal should be to have a comfortable conversation during which you SEEM confident and positive (even if you're not). 

Let's work together preparing for your interview. Email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a consultation.

Interview Genie is an interview prep company. I specialize in coaching non-native English speakers.