Interview Time: Check Your Body Language

YIMG_1203, Paris copyright Shelagh Donnellyour next interview may not be a walk in the park, but you can make a good impression by standing tall and injecting warmth and confidence in your body language. While some of us are comfortable heading into an interview, be it with a five-person interview panel or a CEO, other assistants view job interviews as among the most daunting forms of torture.

Think about it: economic downswings and recovery aside, Assistants have typically, in the past, enjoyed relative stability of employment. Now, whether by personal choice or circumstance, career Assistants have joined the ranks of new graduates who – having invested significant time and monies in securing their credentials – are understandably keen to launch their career, ideally with a coveted position offering challenge and job satisfaction, not to mention an attractive compensation package.

Having served on more than a few interview panels and selection committees, I can promise you that, while they do want to assess your skills, experience, education and fit for the job, most interviewers don’t intend to discombobulate candidates. Rather, the managers and executives involved in the recruitment process are typically busy people.

Panel members’ priority is to get the recruitment process right the first time so that, ideally, they need go through it only once for a given vacancy, therein minimising costs and disruptions.

When an interviewer sees a candidate gulping for air, then, as s/he enters the interview room, clutching the arms of a chair, or over-eagerly nodding in agreement with almost anything anyone says, s/he’ll likely be empathetic. The pragmatic interviewer, though, will also consider whether a candidate who is unnerved by an interview process can cut it in a demanding office environment.

With this in mind, exceptional Assistants, PAs and Administrative Professionals (APs) will approach a job interview with heightened consciousness of how we present ourselves.

Assistants need to balance effective preparedness – insights on the job, the organisation and its people – with ability to articulate how our skills, education, experience and awe-inspiring personality align with the employer’s needs.

That’s not all, though; we need to develop and remember to ask insightful questions that cinch the interview … and do all this along with elevated awareness of our body language. All this, of course, while feeling both hopeful and vulnerable. A walk in the park, yes?

The good news is that the simple virtue of this heightened self-awareness, managed correctly, can make us that much stronger a candidate. Here, then, is Exceptional EA’s version of your truest friend’s best intended set of marching orders for the job hunt; filter them for your situation and culture, and practice these elements of your interview just as you do prospective questions.

Stand (and sit) tall, convey confidence, make eye contact, and engage with others in the room

  1. Stand tall –  and keep your arms relaxed when entering the room. I know someone who is barely  4’11″/almost 150 cm tall, but manages to stand taller than many people who have six inches/15 cm on her in height; it’s all in her attitude.
  2. Relaxed entry – keep your walking pace natural, neither sprinting nor hesitating as you make your way into the room
  3. Confident handshake – you want to achieve a happy medium, somewhere between a vice grip and a tentative hand
  4. Eye contact – many of my readers will want to maintain eye contact, particularly when shaking hands and when responding to interview questions. When responding to a question, remember that you’re conveying information to the group at large; don’t limit your eye contact solely to the individual who asked the question at hand.
  5. Relaxed, but not overly so – poised is the effect we’re going for; check yourself if you find yourself crossing your arms over your chest; pay attention to your posture and sit tall; do not slouch (“… and eat your vegetables!”)
  6. Lean in – you’ve heard lots about this recently, and it’s appropriate in this context; just don’t lean in to someone’s personal space or, conversely, slouch back in your chair
  7. Arms – Where are your arms, and why is it suddenly so tempting to cross them in front of your chest? Where do they go, then? Well, you don’t want to emulate someone standing in front of dozens of airline passengers, signalling directions to exits and the facilities. Similarly, people generally don’t appreciate waving or chopping motions accompanying anecdotes of how you successfully diffused a difficult situation, and even fewer enjoy having a finger waggled in their face. We’re aiming, remember, for a poised and relaxed presence, even if that’s not how you feel.
  8. No bobble-heads at the table – While an affirmative nod of the head here and there is perfectly appropriate, you want to pace yourself in this respect;  too much of this, and you may present as being overly eager to signal agreement no matter what someone may say
If you’re a recent grad, or haven’t interviewed in some time, the entire job search process may be daunting. By recognising and paying attention to your body language alongside the other elements of your interview preparation, you’re increasing the potential that this next interview may be the one that secures you the job offer you’ve been seeking.

 

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