Putting your best foot forward during a job interview can be tough—even if you know the company inside and out, you’re qualified for the job you’re interviewing for, and you’re going in confident, there are still subtle things to look out for if you want to ensure you’re revealing all the right cards in terms of your personality and the type of colleague you’d like to be.
Below, we spoke to a handful of body language experts and hiring managers to get their insights on the most common clues that interviewers look for when interviewing a job candidate.
From leaning in and showing interest to keeping your hands in their line of vision, here’s exactly what you should—and shouldn’t—be doing to ensure you’re making the best impression possible.
Leaning into it
“Leaning forward shows that you are interested and listening,” explains Patti Wood, MA, Spokesperson and Body Language Expert..
“You can lean forward with your head, your upper torso, or your whole body to show you are connecting to what the interviewer is saying.”
But don’t overdo it; you’re not trying to get in their face. “Just aim for gentle, timely leanings. As interviewees, we tend to pull back when we don’t like or are fearful of a question. Making an effort to move forward shows the interviewer you’re focused on her and not on yourself,” says Woods.
Showing your hands
According to Wood, you shouldn’t hide your hands under the table or in your pockets or otherwise tuck them away. Keeping your hands open and in view on the table or the arms of the chair and gesturing normally shows that you’re confident and open.
“If you are extremely nervous, you can briefly hold your own hand to comfort yourself, but only briefly,” says Wood.
“Your hands show your emotional state. When you close your hand, the amount of tightness and the way the fingers curve show how you feel about the topic being discussed and the person you are with. In an interview, you want to be open, not closed.”
Showing up confidently
“When I’m doing interviews, the thing that I look for the most is the candidate’s overall level of comfort during the interview,” says Todd Tamlin, Hiring Manager at Cable Compare.
“If they appear to be nervous or uncomfortable I’m left to figure out if they’re just not good in pressure situations, if they haven’t prepared properly, or if they’re not being entirely honest about something.”
Any of these things are reason enough for most hiring managers to put a candidate who seems at ease in the interview ahead in the running—even if you might be the more qualified candidate.
Being comfortable during an interview indicates to the interviewer that a candidate is well prepared and confident in their abilities and those are qualities. And while we all get nervous from time to time, doing your best to manage your anxiety and nerves is key.
Dressing for success
“In an interview, you are dressing to show respect for the company and the interviewer,” explains Wood.
“The culture of the company you are interviewing with matters.”
The general guideline is to dress one or two levels up from whatever would be appropriate—which will show that you respect the company and yourself.
All’s well that ends well
The last thing you say or do tends to matter a great deal, Woods says. So as the conversation winds down, make sure your belongings are on the left side of your body so you can easily shake with your right hand.
“You may shake hands more than once—when you get up, at the door, and after talking for a bit longer while parting. Make that seem like the most natural thing in the world, because every time you shake hands, you’re bonding,” says Woods.
“Even if you feel you didn’t do as well as you would have liked in the interview, you can improve the impression you make by closing strongly and confidently.”
While some people turn off and start to give up when they feel they haven’t nailed it. Instead, staying present and poised all the way to the end can actually be your saving grace and says a lot about who you really are.