Body language tips for job interviews from expert Sharon Sayler

Sharon SaylerHitting a job interview out of the park takes a combination of things -- a great resume, strong answers to questions and the right look. Sure, a good suit and a haircut help. But don't overlook how you act and talk. Too often, people forget the intangibles like tone, posture and even breathing, Sharon Sayler, author of What Your Body Says and How to Master the Message, told WalletPop in a telephone interview.

All these can influence how the interviewer perceives your candidacy. "We often mirror and match each other's actions. So if you're in control of the body language of rapport building -- a gentle smile, good eye contact and gestures of relationship building such as hand motions with the palms face up – they will start to match it too," explained Sayler. She shares 5 tips on how to set the right tone and make a lasting impression:

Be consistent
One of the biggest mistakes you can make, said Sayler, is to think the job interview starts when you meet the interviewer. In fact, it starts the instant you enter the building. Front desk personnel have likely been told to pass along their observations.Explained Sayler, "Everyone knows to have a good handshake, smile and make eye contact. Interviewers want to know if you are behaving differently for them versus for others. Have you been choreographed?"

Don't forget to breathe
Another common mistake is to breathe too fast and too high. That changes the tone of your voice, giving it an unnatural pattern that may be filled with 'Umms' and other verbal fillers. Your movements can also become jerky. All this gives the impression that you're nervous and perhaps even unintelligent.

So make sure to pause and breathe at natural points in the conversation. When she's nervous, Sayler created a reminder anchor – a point on her hand she gently pushes.

Adopt the right tone of voice
How you speak is just as important as what you say. When applying for a service position, you should generally use the "connection" voice pattern – one that is friendly, ending each sentence with the voice going upward, as if you're asking a question with the chin tilting up about an inch. For management positions, Sayler encourages using the "credible" voice pattern – one that maintains a calm cadence, almost monotone, with the chin dipping down a bit.

Candidates can use both if the situation warrants it, said Sayler. For example, when discussing your accomplishments for a service position, use the credible voice.

Hand motions are okay
That doesn't mean wave them about or dramatically. A palm facing up moving from you towards the interviewer signals you're including him. A sideways gesture indicates you're serious.

Watch what you do with your hands when you're standing or walking too. Hands clasped behind your back tell him you're not very secure. A hand behind your back clasping the opposite elbow is a commanding posture. "You see someone like General Petraeus do it when reviewing the troops," said Sayler. "People can't tell you why they don't like it, but they don't. Don't use it unless you're interviewing for a CEO position."

If possible, keep your hands hanging gently by your side. If that feels uncomfortable, have them bent, parallel to the floor with the fingers just about to touch or clasping something like a pen. Explained Sayler, "That prevents you from gripping your hands and doing the white knuckle treatment."

Best seat forward
Remember what your mom said about slouching? It's true – it gives the impression that you're not serious, that you might even be a little lazy. So sit up straight but don't rest against the chair's back as office chairs tend to be roomy, which can promote slouching.

In addition, "feel free to scoot forward and engage them" whenever the conversation calls for it. Then scoot back. "Ideally, sit at a 90 degree angle," recommended Sayler. That way, the interviewer can see your inclusive hand motions and attempts at eye contact.

"Eye contact can be tricky," she warned. "It should be consistent but not constant. It's natural to blink and natural to occasionally glance up or down to think. If you find they are not giving you eye contact, they could be showing you they are uncomfortable with the amount of eye contact you are giving them. So change it up. And be sure to keep the eye in the professional zone, from the bridge of the nose to the top of the forehead."
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