Interviews Require You to Speak A Special Language
Candidates too often focus exclusively on the verbal communication aspects of a job search. How much time have you spent on the body language aspect of communications?
Some say body language is 70% of communications. Whether or not you agree with this percentage is irrelevant. All will agree it is a high percentage. So that begs the question, "What have you done to ensure your body language is communicating the right way?"
Knowing I was going to write an article on this topic, for the last two weeks I have asked over 100 candidates, "What have you done to ensure you are using proper body language during your job search?" Not surprisingly, most just looked at me like a deer in the headlights. A few actually knew what I meant and one even admitted they had thought about it. The famous thought about it, not necessarily done anything about it. Two indicated the outplacement firm had videoed them so they could see themselves.
Given this incredibly high percentage, I would think more candidates would at least have read up on the subject, maybe videoed themselves in a mock interview, or practiced so as to be aware of what to do and not to do.
The reason for this topic is because of feedback I received from an interview one of my candidates recently had. The problem wasn't regarding the person's technical abilities, it was around the candidate's body language and what it conveyed. Right or wrong, it doesn't matter. In this economy the company can move on to the next candidate, get the same technical abilities and body language that conveys the right message.
When I met with the candidate, I noticed a couple of issues and mentioned them to the candidate. One was poor eye contact and the other was how he sits in the chair. He looked at me when the question was being asked, however, as he started to answer the question he would lose eye contact. He would look down, glance up from time to time then look back down, adjust his glasses, and then look down. I mentioned this to him. At first he was shocked, denied it, and flat out didn't believe me. I have mentioned this hundreds of times to candidates over the last 30 years. This is a common reaction by most candidates. They don't even realize they are doing this. Nobody has ever told them, and since they have never been videoed, they can't see it for themselves.
The second thing I mentioned was how he sits in the chair. He was rather tall so he tended to slouch down in the chair almost like one does at home on the couch while watching a baseball game. I strongly recommended sitting up straight, and when wanting to stress a point, he could even slightly lean forward to engage the interviewer. Coming across overly relaxed in a somewhat formal setting of an interview is not the proper presentation. As my client said, "This would not look appropriate during a board or investor meeting."
As a candidate, you should not assume you have good body language. You should test it. Consider videoing yourself. You will not only notice poor body language, but you will also pick up little nuances that you don't even realize you are doing. This is a powerful tool. Most candidates have or can borrow a video camera to work through this exercise.
Don't underestimate body language. It not only applies during an interview, but also in your networking. People only want to refer others they are proud of. If you present poor body language in a one-on-one networking coffee you probably will not receive any referrals.
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