Body Language Speaks Volumes on a Job Interview

Broadway actor John Treacy Egan and acting coach Jodie Bentley share body-language tricks to use (and some to avoid) during a job interview.

By Karl Rozemeyer

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Actors know that body language speaks volumes, and the good ones use it subtly to persuade the audience.

Poses, positions and postures tell the audience what to think about the character.

A job interview is no different, said Jodie Bentley, owner and co-founder of The Savvy Actor, a firm that coaches actors on the business of acting and teaches them how to market themselves. Your body language tells the interviewer things about you.

“I think it is important to have body awareness before you go into an interview,” she said. There are many actions and habits that we should consider doing or avoid doing to tell the right story during the interview setting.

Actor John Treacy Egan, featured in such Broadway hits as “The Producers” and “The Little Mermaid,” demonstrates some of the body-language tricks he uses and avoids on stage.

“Practice these, and you will take it over,” he said. “It’s like muscle matter.”

1) Wardrobe

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Bentley emphasized the importance of wearing clothes that show you in your best light during an interview. “I really think that the clothes that you wear impact who you are, and if you wear something that makes you feel fabulous, your body language is going to be so much more comfortable in the moment.”

2) Hold onto a talisman

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“Wear a piece of jewelry or a scarf or something that has meaning to you and can ground you in the moment,” Bentley said. “If I get nervous, sometimes I will look at my wedding ring and think of my husband who supports me, and I realize I should be doing this and I am on the right path. When we get nervous, we feel ourselves being removed from our bodies slightly. I think that having that talisman is a great way just to keep us grounded and present in the moment.”

3) Feet on floor

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Egan recommended that you keep both feet on the floor and sit up straight. Crossing your legs, he said, portrays complacency.

4) Sit still

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“Nervous energy isn’t good,” Bentley said. “And so a lot of people cross their legs and shake their legs over and over again. Not that we need to sit with ankles crossed and be stiff.”

5) Hands on knees

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“If you have to make a point,” Egan said, “you can use your hands.” But rather than speaking with your hands, he recommends you rest your hands on your knees until you need to make a gesture.

6) Sit a little bit forward

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“You don’t want to sit back,” Egan said. “Leaning backwards can leave the impression that you are overly relaxed and can make you look untidy.”

7) Don’t fold your arms

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“I think that is a bad habit that a lot of people fall into. It definitely closes you off (from the interviewer). Not a lot of actors do it,” Bentley said.

8) Avoid body tics

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Don’t crack your finger joints or fiddle with your cufflinks. “I have big, red, curly hair, and I used to twirl my curls when I got nervous,” Bentley said. “It is about really being honest with yourself and saying to yourself: ‘What are my habits when I get nervous, and how can I eliminate them?’ ”

9) No hands in pockets

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“If you are standing at all in the interview, then hands in the pockets are a big no-no. That just looks so clumsy and messy,” Bentley said. “Let your hands drop to your side, and talk,” is Egan’s advice. “When you need to use your hands, engage them.”

10) Don’t invade the interviewer’s space

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“Some people just get too close for comfort,” Bentley said. “They think that they want to make a connection, so they get closer. Really knowing that boundary is really important.” For example, don’t stretch your hands or body over the interviewer’s desk.

11) Props

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“If you need a prop like a pen, use it if it makes you feel a little bit more comfortable,” Egan said. “Start with the place where you feel safest, holding your hands together or holding a prop, but give yourself the chance to step away from that during the presentation or interview. It makes you look stronger.”

12) Don’t stare

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“In a conversation, (actors) never fully lock eyes with people,” Bentley said. “We talk, we look people in the eyes, we have a thought, and we look away. We look to the right, and we look to the left.” Sometimes in an interview setting, you focus too much on impressing the audience. “And we start really staring at them, and staying focused so much, that we start to look a little crazy.” Egan concurred: “If you feel like you are looking the person in the eye too long, hold it one more second and break away.”

Karl Rozemeyer is a general assignment reporter for Ladders.

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