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How To Behave During A Job Interview, According To A Body Language Expert

Got a job interview lined up soon? Here are some things to keep in mind.
PHOTO: istockphoto

You spend four or more years in college with one goal: successfully making a mark in the real world. The idea of finally earning your own money and spending it on whatever you want is sort of like saying, "I've made it!"

Before that happens, however, there's still an entire process: preparing your CV, looking for job openings, and applying to several companies—hoping to find a good fit. When you finally get a callback, you essentially get the chance to present yourself. The final step of this assessment is the dreaded interview. 

All those years of what seemed like endless lessons and tests will be determined by an average of 20 minutes. Some people who got average scores in college ace interviews and land their dream jobs, and some people who got straight A's might find it harder than expected. Some say it's all about luck, while others conclude it's about someone's personality. 

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For anyone who needs a little extra help, here are some tips that could help you swing that decision in your favor. 

Rule #1: Appear presentable.

Research shows that it takes seven seconds for a person to form first impressions and judgments. The first thing you should do is research what employees normally wear at the company you're applying to. Most companies require business casual (slacks and blouse or a simple dress for women) and have Casual Fridays when employees can come in jeans and sneakers. Are there colors you should avoid? Some companies may look down on wearing certain colors whether it's for feng shui or just because it reminds them of their competitor.

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Maintain eye contact and practice a firm handshake.

As soon as the interviewer comes in, stand up, look him/her in the eye, state your name in a firm voice ("Hi, I'm Sheila") and go for a handshake. Have a firm grip and let the handshake last for at least three seconds before you let go. This shows your interviewer that you have power and confidence.

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Sit with a 45-degree angle from your interviewer.

Whenever possible, avoid sitting directly across your interviewer. This may feel confrontational and at times, combative. Having the table between you is a barrier to chemistry and connection. If you can, sit with a 45-degree angle or as close to this as possible. Avoid having big items such as vases or a pile of folders between you and your interviewer. The clearer the space is between you, the easier you'll get your message across.

Mirror your interviewer's sitting position.

Notice how your interviewer sits and mirror the exact seating position. If your interviewer relaxes and leans on the chair, mirror the same relaxed position. If your interviewer sits erect with hands on the table, do that as well. This will allow you to be in the same energy with the interviewer and would give the feeling that you are in sync.

Match your interviewer's energy and tone of voice.

When you give the person a vibe that says "I get you," they will like you more. Notice the breathing of your interviewer from how the shoulders and the chest go up and down. Try to breathe at the same pace to show them you are on the same wavelength as they are. Match their tone of voice and speed in speaking. When they speak loudly and in a fast manner, do what you can to be at the same speed and volume. When they start slowing down, then follow their lead.

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Nod and give encouragers while you listen.

As your future employer talks or gives examples, nod and smize. Give encouragers like, "Mmm," "Yes," "Right," to give the impression that you're listening, totally getting it, and agreeing to what is being discussed.

Use hand gestures appropriately. 

Use hand gestures consistently and appropriately while you're answering questions. If you use an open palm to refer to the word "opportunities" for example, remember to use that every time. Use hand gestures mildly and in a relaxed way so as not to be interpreted as nervousness or insecurity.

Never use your index finger to point. 

Using your index finger to point either at your interviewer or to an imaginary person (when telling a story) is a no-no. It implies that you blame other people or are being defensive. Use an open palm with fingers pointing to the direction of the person you're talking to.

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Avoid the "talk to the hand" gesture.

When telling a story or illustrating an example, make sure to avoid using your palm in a gesture that seems to indicate "stop." This has the effect of breaking whatever rapport and connection you have created with your interviewer. Be sure to use firm and gentle gestures. And if you really want to make a strong point, use hand gestures that face away from your interviewer. This way, the one you're talking to won't feel like the negative energy is directed at them.

Practice these tips with a friend and you'll do well on your next job interview! May these tips land you that role you've been eyeing.

Expert Sheila Tan is a licensed Meta-Coach and NLP Practitioner.