Body Talk: What Your Body Language Says About You

by Staff - Original publish date: July 10, 2013

More Than 90% of All Communication is Nonverbal

You've spent hours preparing for an important interview. You've carefully thought out your appearance and practiced answers to potential questions until you have them down cold. You look the part. You sound the part. But will your body language let you down?

Check out pictures and videos of actual staff members showing you what to do and what not to do when it comes to nonverbal communication.

First Impressions Count

You've spent hours preparing for an important interview. You've carefully thought out your appearance, and have practiced answers to potential questions until you have them down cold. You look the part. You sound the part. But will your body language let you down?

Many job seekers pay plenty of attention to their verbal communication skills, but fail to recognize the importance of non-verbal skills. Words count, but if your body language contradicts them you may be passed over in a competitive situation.

Has your body been conveying the right messages? Using pictures and video of actual employees, we'll show you the important way body language can either make or break you in the work place.

Confidence and a Firm Grip

Watch as Tim confidently enters the room with a smile, walks directly up to Avram and engages in a firm handshake. He's set the tone early and laid the foundation for a successful interview.

Don't Be a Close Talker

If there's a desk or table separating you from your interviewer, this will take care of itself. Otherwise, be sure to put at least two feet between you and the other person, but not more than three feet.

Sitting too close, or touching your interviewer aside from the handshake--a jovial punch to the arm or a touch on the shoulder--is completely inappropriate.

Not to mention no one likes coffee breath, so keep out of the other person's personal space.

Keep Your Coffee Breath to Yourself

Bonding with your co-workers is great. Invading their personal space? Not so much. Beverly could easily show Lauren what to do without getting uncomfortably close. When in doubt, leave a healthy amount of space between you and the other person.

Be Seen As a Go-Getter

Sit up straight in your chair with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Leaning back in your chair shows that you are too relaxed, don't take the job seriously and are not an aggressive worker.

Slouching in your chair says you are unprepared for either the interview or the job, and neither bodes well for you. Instead, lean slightly forward toward the interviewer, which conveys engagement and interest.

Pay Attention to Your Feet

That's right, body language incorporates your entire body, including the southernmost parts.

If you're feeling a little nervous or panicked, you may point your feet towards the door without even realizing it. After all, this foot position will make it easier to run out the door if you get a question you can't answer!

It's normal to feel a little nervous during an interview, but you have to do your utmost not to give it away. Instead, make sure your feet are pointed in the direction of your interviewer so he/she knows you are fully vested in the conversation.

Speaking of Feet, Keep Them Still

Crossing your legs, then wiggling, bouncing, swinging or tapping the dangling leg and foot, depicts a lack of comfort. The interviewer will begin to concentrate less on your practiced answers and more on why you are so uncomfortable.

Is it because you're not confident, or don't think you have the chops for the job? In order to make sure your interviewer keeps focused on all your positive traits, it's best to keep your legs and feet uncrossed and still.

Stop the Toe-Tapping

When you're in a job interview or talking to your boss, you want all the attention focused on what you're saying. That won't happen if you're like Avram, tapping your shoe and bouncing your foot during the conversation. Refrain from toe-tapping, nail-biting and everything else that could distract the other person.

Be Open

Keeping your arms tightly crossed in front of your chest indicates that you want to keep the interviewer "out."

He or she may feel unable to get to know the "real" you as a result, and may feel unable to fully judge you as a candidate. People who come off as "standoffish" or "closed" are also perceived as difficult to work with, and this may be enough for the interviewer to dismiss you as a candidate.

If you don't know what to do with your arms, try clasping your hands in your lap.

Don't Be Closed Off

You want to be seen as someone who is open to new ideas and people But when Lauren crosses her arms and legs and then faces away from the interview and towards the door, she's sending a clear message she doesn't want to be there. Whether it's a job interview or one-on-one time with your boss, that kind of body language tells the other person you're closed off and not receptive. Never a good thing.

Leave the Pom-Poms at Home

It's natural to move your hands while you speak, especially if you feel passionate about something. But unless you're trying out for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, keep hand movements to a minimum.

Not only do they distract the other person from what you're saying, they send the message that what you are saying isn't strong enough to stand on its own.

Learn how to use minimal hand gestures for emphasis by practicing answers to potential questions in the mirror.

Don't Excessively Talk with Your Hands

We all know someone who talks with their hands. In social situations it can even be cute and endearing. But at work or during a job interview, if you're excessively talking with your hands and making wild gestures like Beverly, it's going to end up distracting (and possibly physically harming) the person on the other end of the conversation.

Silence is Golden

A good rule of thumb is all body movements that result in sound are strictly verboten.

Cracking knuckles or other body parts is not polite, and sends the message you are incredibly nervous. It also indicates you have difficulty controlling your impulses.

Chances are, the interviewer will opt for a more socially aware, confident candidate.

Keep All Bodily Noises to Yourself

This should go without saying but we'll say it anyways: no burping, farting or cracking your knuckles (or any other body part) during the conversation. And if you have to cough, don't do what Luke does. Turn away and cough into the crook of your elbow. Giving your boss or interviewer the flu is not a way to earn points.

Look Towards the Future But Not Into the Distance

You may be looking ahead in your career, but make sure you look your interviewer in the eye. Fixing your eyes on the floor, the wall, or on fixtures or furniture suggests boredom and lack of interest.

Look Towards the Future, But Not Into the Distance

We cannot underestimate the importance of eye contact. First of all it's an unspoken way to establish a rapport and credibility. Second, it lets the other person know you're engaged and interested in what he or she is saying. But if you act like Beverly, your boss or the person interviewing you will wonder what the heck you're looking at, and whether or not you need medical attention.

Hold That Itch

Have an overwhelming itch at the moment you're explaining why you would be the perfect candidate for the job? Resist!

Itching your nose, whether it's because you have a legitimate itch or whether it's merely an impulse, conveys you may not be totally honest.

Don't Scratch That Itch

Nervousness happens. Whether you're interviewing for a new job or having a sit-down with your boss, it's natural to be nervous. And sometimes, as Tim demonstrates, that manifests itself in scratching your nose, or other nervous tics. Try to minimize these as much as possible so the focus of the conversation remains on you and your skills, and not why you're so itchy.

It's an Interview Not a Hair Salon

Style your hair before you leave for your interview, then leave it alone.

Twirling your hair, running your fingers through it or playing with the ends conveys complete boredom and lack of interest in the job. Not the best course of action for someone trying to land a job in a competitive market.

Don't Play with Your Hair

Playing with your hair to attract attention is one thing. But the office is not a bar or club, and doing so while interviewing or talking to others in the workplace is just annoying and borderline disrespectful. Beverly is giving all the attention to her hair and thus paying little attention to the conversation. And that's never a good thing when you're trying to impress someone.

Be a Good Interpreter

Watch your interviewer's body language, and mimic it when appropriate.

If your interviewer leans forward, then you lean forward. If he or she smiles, reciprocate. This not only conveys respect, but indicates you're "on the same page."

Pay attention to negative body language as well. If the interviewer indicates boredom by drumming his or her fingers on the desk, or by gazing at the wall in back of you, you might want to work on ramping up the interest factor.

Take Cues from Your Interviewer

Look over the other person's body language and act accordingly. Luke takes stock of Avram's body language and sees that Avram is relaxed and sitting back in his chair. So Luke adjusts and mirrors those sentiments. If your interviewer is an assertive person it won't pay for you to come across as relaxed and passive, and vice versa.

Let Them Hear Your Body Talk

When it comes to acing your interview and communicating positively in general, it's important that your verbal and non-verbal communication is in perfect harmony.

If your mouth is saying all the right things but your body language is screaming something entirely different, getting that job or promotion is just going to be that much harder. Following these tips and being cognizant of what your body language is communicating to others can only help your career success.

Good luck!

Turn Your Body Language Into Real Money

Even if your body language is lacking, that doesn't mean your paycheck should. The important thing is you're earning as much as possible, and can help.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.