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How Body Language Can Make or Break Your Next Interview


in-person-interviewBody language can have a significant impact on what you say and how your words are perceived.

This is especially important when you have the opportunity to speak to a reporter. They’re experts at reading body language, which often reveals more than a subject’s words.

An investigative journalist might gauge body language to see if an interviewee is trying to hide something so they know where to keep digging.

Even if your discomfort is only about the interview itself, it can undermine your message and hurt the reporter’s opinion of you.

Here, I’ll break down five things to do (or avoid!) during an interview to ensure that you sound confident and authoritative.

1: Breathe

Fast, shallow breaths increase your heart rate and can cause you to talk faster than you should, making you seem nervous and unprepared. And that’s not what you want when talking to a reporter.

When you sit down for your interview, be sure to take four to five deep breaths.

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Need more support for your jitters? Check out the Calm app. I recommend trying one of the guided ten-minute meditations.

2: Sit Up Straight

This matters because your posture has a major impact not only on how you appear to others, but also on how you speak. Slouching suggests a lack of confidence or even a lack of interest. And it constricts the muscles of the larynx, which can affect how your voice sounds.

In interviews, the most common posture offenses are…

  • Hunching over.
  • Swiveling in your chair.
  • Getting too comfortable.

All of these posture faux pas can present distractions for you, cause you to sound overly informal, and decrease your level of alertness.

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Try this instead: sit forward on your seat so that your feet are touching the ground and your back is an inch or so away from the back rest. Remember to pull your shoulders back and let them relax.

Another tip: imagine you have a tail where a dog would and sit so that the tail is free behind you (more here – I promise this helps!).

As a general rule, if you’re feeling cozy, you’re doing it wrong. 

3: Loosen Up

Flustered interviewees are notorious for the “death grip.” That’s when you clasp your hands together or interlace your fingers and hold on for dear life. 

While it may feel like it’s keeping you calm, this posture can actually increase stress levels and make you feel tense, both of which can translate into you sounding like an anxious mess on the other end of the line.

Instead of your hands squeezing the life out of each other, try lightly touching them to one another while touching your wrists or forearms to the table. This will help you feel calmer and more relaxed.

Still feeling stiff? Head back up to section 1.

4: Stop Fidgeting

When we’re nervous, we like to play with jewelry, our hair, our ears, our beard – anything we can get our hands on.

In person, this can be distracting for the reporter you’re talking to and make you come across as less authoritative.

If you’re on the phone, fidgeting can cause you to lose your train of thought and ramble. This isn’t helpful to the reporter, who needs you to be as concise as possible.

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If you absolutely must do something with your hands, take notes, have something to drink or, if in person, use pen and paper to illustrate what you’re talking about.

6: Commit

It’s human nature to multitask on phone interviews, but you should power down potential distractions like email, Slack, or Buzzfeed. If you have trouble avoiding temptation, keep your laptop and cell phone out of reach.

Distraction reads loud and clear over the phone – and the last thing you want to do is suggest that you aren’t taking the interview seriously enough to give it your full attention.

Put a Bow on It

So you’ve made it to the end of the interview (hopefully using these five tips). Now it’s time to nail it home.

Send a thank-you email to the reporter saying you enjoyed the conversation and making sure they know they can reach you at any time.

You can also use the thank-you to address any remaining questions or to clarify that thing you were rambling about while you were playing with your watch.

One final thought: if you’re reading through this and groaning internally thinking back on your last interview, don’t worry. Like anything else, interviews take practice; changing habits as ingrained as body language takes time.

The goal is not to be perfect, but to get a little better each time.