5 Unspoken Tells That Can Make or Break Your Interview

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By Arnie Fertig

When you are in the midst of a job interview, communication takes place on multiple levels simultaneously. Obviously, what both the employer and job seeker says is important. How you respond to questions, what stories you tell about your current role, how you describe your relevant accomplishments and how you demonstrate your technical competence are critical to interview success.

However, the impression you make on any employer at an interview is determined by far more than what you say. Your silent, nonverbal communication will be carefully scrutinized and evaluated.

Your nonverbal messages and cues provide great insight into your self-image and personality, and these impressions will inevitably find their way into the employer's judgment-making process. Therefore, it is erroneous to think that only the things you actually say at an interview count.

Consider well the following:1. Your handshake. Even though President Barack Obama has been known to greet people with a fist bump, you'd best not try that when meeting a potential boss in an interview!

Remember that the origin of the handshake was likely to build trust. In ancient times, people demonstrated that they were approaching each other unarmed by walking toward each other with the right arm extended and right hand open. The message was simple and remains the same today: Even if you don't know me, you can immediately see I can be trusted to come in a spirit of cooperation.

When you meet someone in a business environment, standard protocol is to extend your right hand and give a full, firm – but not nut-crushing – handshake. A limp handshake, or the slight squeeze of the other person's hand without fully grasping it, sets off alarm bells in an interviewer's mind.

2. Your body language. According to a presentation from mindqjobs.com, body language shows whether you are insecure or self-assured, speaking truthfully, enthusiastic, take your work seriously and more. It is important to walk fully upright with your shoulders squared and with a smile on your face. Neither lean back in your chair, nor bend intently over table in front of you. No matter how nervous you feel, take a deep breath and smile!

3. Your eye contact. Are you the kind of person who looks someone right in the eye, projecting strength and interest? Or do you tend to look down or through a window away into the distance? Do you point your head away from the person with whom you are speaking? Some people find it incredibly hard to look people straight in the eyes, and if this describes you, you need to practice, practice and practice until you feel more comfortable.

4. Your poise. As you sit in your chair, do you have that deer-in-the-headlights look on your face? Are your hands shaking, or are beads of sweat rolling down your forehead? Are you shifting your position frequently?

Or do you hold yourself in such a way as to demonstrate a sense of balance and self-control? Your posture and overall bearing demonstrate if you are the kind of person who can handle pressure without showing it. Rare is the job that doesn't have some amount of stress related to it, and employers continually seek people who will be able to cope with it successfully.

5. Your believability. Gaining credibility depends on far more than simply demonstrating technical knowledge and competence.

Management consultant Bette Price explains the results obtained by researchers at the University of Houston who explored why some people are more believable than others. They found that among the traits that help demonstrate believability are composure under pressure, the ability to convey genuine warmth and caring for people and your sociability. All that includes your social skills, etiquette and conversational appropriateness.

When it comes down to it, if you demonstrate yourself to be comfortable in your own skin and sincerely concerned about the needs of an employer before your own, and you project a friendly but professional tone, you pave the way for your thoughts and expertise to be taken seriously. You take the first step to showing yourself to be the kind of person with whom people want to build professional relationships.

Happy Hunting!

Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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