Career coach: Body language more important than words in job interview

Posted on: 12:48 pm, October 30, 2012, by

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Job seekers spend hours, days, even months practicing the perfect pitch as to why they should be hired. But selling yourself to a potential employer isn’t always about the words you choose.

In fact, that might be the least of your worries.

According to an expert, 55 percent of the communication employers use to determine who they’ll hire is of the non-verbal variety.

“It’s really hard to fake body language,” career coach Don Strankowski said. “It’s hard to fake confident posture and tone. It’s hard to fake a belief in what you’re saying.”

Strankowski’s specialty is training hopeful employees for job interviews. We sat in on his sessions with Jackie and Amanda.

Little did those two ladies know, Strankowski wasn’t going to pay attention to what they said.

We started with Jackie, who was a victim of a downsizing this past June and is looking for a fresh start. After her interview with Strankowski, we broke the news to her that nothing she just told him was really going to matter.

“Wow,” she said. “I’m sure I probably just looked nervous.”

As it turns out, Jackie’s interview started off better than she thought, according to Strankowski.

“She did an outstanding job preparing for the interview by wearing something that was very professional,” Strankowski said. “Also handshakes are key, and hers was firm and friendly; she looked me right in the eye.”

Strankowski said those three things are key to making a good first impression. But they aren’t the only thing.

Later in Jackie’s interview, Strankowski said he noticed a question that threw her body language off.

That question: “Why should I hire you for this position?”

“Without even listening to her response, you can tell she hesitates,” Strankowski said. “She doesn’t appear to have much confidence in her answer. If you were extremely confident about yourself being the best candidate, and that I should hire you for this position, the answer would have come out right away.”

That’s not all. Strankowski said Jackie’s lack of hand gestures tipped him off.

“If she was confident in her answer, she would have probably uncoupled her hands and started using them to make a point,” Strankowski said. “Hand gestures accentuate a point. And that’s very, very important when you’re on the clock in a job interview.”

Our next job candidate is Amanda.

Right off the bat, Strankowski saw something he didn’t like. It all started with the way Amanda stated her name.

“She kind of looked down and said it under her breath,” Strankowski said. “That resonated with me. I was thinking, ‘Maybe this person isn’t quite as confident as they should be in this particular interview.’”

Later in the interview, Amanda started answering a question but didn’t really finish that response.

“I’m a really fast learner, so that shouldn’t be a problem,” she said, before drifting off and looking down at the table.

Strankowski said interviewees need to treat each response to a question as if they were a baseball umpire.

“You state your answer, and you make it clear you’re not going back on it,” Strankowski said. “You always state it with confidence”

While Amanda dressed professionally for her interview, and did a great job of being engaged – leaning slightly forward with good posture – there was one final thing that stood out to Strankowski.

The nose ring.

“That was a little distracting,” Strankowski said. “That’s not a good thing.”

After the two interviews, Strankowski left both job candidates with a final lesson.

“It takes maybe three seconds to formulate a first impression, and 30 seconds for it to dry like resin,” Strankowski said. “Just like it’s really hard to break up resin, it’s really hard to break free of a bad first impression.”