Everybody knows the warning about the “limp handshake.” You were probably advised against that blunder when you were looking for your first job. God forbid a potential employer should reach out and wind up holding something that feels like damp earthworms! There are a couple of job interviewing secrets that can help you avoid any awkward encounters when you’re visiting the office…
In an interview, shaking hands firmly is just one of the things you have to do with your body. James Borg, author of “Persuasion: The Art of Influencing People,” says that body language makes up 93 percent of human communication. I’m not sure exactly where he came up with that number, but this is true: what you do with your body is of massive importance. And this starts BEFORE you walk into the interview.
Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Joy Casselberry Cuddy is an expert on nonverbal communication. One of the most valuable 21 minutes you can spend during your job search is to watch her amazing TEDTalk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” In this lecture, Cuddy explains how your body language impacts those around you, but also yourself.
Have you ever watched a cat react to another animal by arching her back and raising her fur? That’s because she wants to seem bigger. Animals instinctively know that by taking up more space, they seem more bold. Even humans are hard-wired this way; people blind since birth will raise their arms and tilt their heads back – getting “bigger” – when they feel triumphant.
Cuddy talks about “power poses,” such as putting one’s feet on the desk and leaning back, arms behind the head. Or standing with hands on hips. feet apart. But if you think I’m going to tell you to position yourself this way during an interview, STOP! You want to look like a confident person, not like a pompous jerk.
Don’t Do This
Let’s start with what NOT to do. In an article entitled “Interview Body Language Gaffes That Can Cost You the Job,” Forbes writer Jacquelyn Smith warns against crossing your arms, twiddling your hair, or invading personal space (remember the “close talker” on “Seinfeld?”).
Try This Instead
But you can use non-verbal messages to your benefit. Cuddy tells you poses that you can adopt to appear more confident and competent during an interview. You’ve heard, “Fake it ‘till you make it.” But Cuddy says, “Fake it until you BECOME it.” Because here is the secret – your body language actually changes the way you feel about yourself before you meet your interviewer face-to-face!
Cuddy shares studies that show simply sitting or standing in one of these “power poses” increases your testosterone and lowers your cortisol levels, bathing your brain with chemicals that make you feel more optimistic, more assertive and less anxious. So when you do this, you’re actually not “faking” anything. You’re affecting a change in the way you think and feel – which changes who you are. Whoa.
Even Two Minutes Make A Difference
And this chemical change happens quickly. So the next time you have an interview, take two minutes alone – in the elevator or the restroom or wherever you can sneak them – and stand with hands on hips, feet apart. Or raise your arms and tilt your head back. You’ll walk into that interview a more confident, competent you.
I said there was one secret, but there are actually two: there are organizations that can help you become more comfortable with your body language, and one of them is Toastmasters International. For about $72 a year, you can join a worldwide organization dedicated to communication and leadership development. To find a chapter near you, go to the official Toastmasters website and enter your zip code to find a club. (One of the first things you’ll learn is how to avoid that limp handshake!)
Photo Credit: Shutterstock