How To: Impress With Your Body Language

Posted -


As I am writing this article, Bowdoin, Maine, the United States and the World are watching Mitt Romney and Barack Obama await the results of their painstaking journey to the White House.  Months of campaign touring, vicious ads and debates come down to today.  Both Romney and Obama have been highly scrutinized for every awkward smile, off color comment, outfit choice… you name it! These candidates must be constantly aware that they are continuously judged––not only by what they say, but by every move that they make. 

As we begin to think about possible summer jobs and internships (or maybe even our future careers) we can all relate to Obama and Romney...

As candidates for President, both Romney and Obama worked to gain the trust of voters. Their task: convince the public that they will follow through with their promises regardless of their previous experience. As Melvin Scales, assistant director of student career services at Wake Forest University School of Business notes, “They are coached to come off as confident, approachable and trustworthy, much of which is communicated nonverbally. You never see President Obama coming off Air Force One slowly; he always has a pep in his step. That communicates energy and optimism and happiness to be there.”

As relatively inexperienced college students (at least in the job market), we too are finding ourselves in similar situations—albeit, most of us probably aren’t shooting for presidency… quite yet.  However, we must show potential employers that although we might not have a whole lot of experience, we are trustworthy, confident and fit for the job. How might we go about this daunting task…? With a few important techniques in controlling body language, the first impression on a potential boss is positive and lasting. Entering an interview with the right body language can greatly increase your chance of getting your dream internship or first job! With this in mind, here are a few tips to land a new career… some of which are taken straight from the candidates themselves!

Smile! …… But not Too Much:

The simple act of smiling goes a long way. Research has shown that merely smiling at a potential employer will increase your chances of success in the business world.  However, make sure to be genuine.  A fake smile is worse than the screechy sound of nails on a chalkboard.  Romney is infamous for his campaign trail smile that many saw as condescending or insincere.


Posture, Posture, Posture

Remember your lessons from Mary Poppins and always stand up straight when you go into an interview. In the first debate, Obama leaned against the podium, making him appear not interested or engaged. When you go into an interview, walk in with your shoulders back and your head up (but not back, as this conveys arrogance). Body language experts say to avoid slowing down as you enter the room, as it suggests uncertainty or fear.


What’s in a handshake?

There’s a reason why candidates stand outside the polls to shake the hands of potential voters.  Handshakes really do make a difference; it’s a scientific fact! A study led by Beckman Institute researcher, Florin Dolcos and Department of Psychology postdoctoral research associate, Sanda Dolcos found that, "a handshake preceding social interaction enhanced the positive impact of approach and diminished the negative impact of avoidance behavior on the evaluation of social interaction." Prior to an interview, you should offer your hand to the interviewer, look him or her in the eye, and give them a firm handshake.  You’ll appear confident and strong (even if that’s the furthest thing from the truth).



Be Open

Don’t close off your body.  This might sound weird at first, but crossing your legs and arms are considered ‘defensive signals’ that people pick up on subconsciously, and immediately. Speak with your hands but make sure to use an open palm, as this conveys honesty.


Eye Contact

Looking your interviewer in the eye is extremely important, but don’t stare them down… You’ll just seem creepy.  Eye contact (in moderation) builds trust and shows confidence—exactly your goal!  When you aren’t looking your interviewer in the eye, don’t stare off into space; you’ll appear bored and uninterested. 


Kick Your Nervous Habits to the Curb

Whether you bite your nails, twirl your hair, tap your leg, or play with your jewelry, all these habits are incredibly distracting and show that you’re nervous.  Recognize the bad habits you might have and actively put them aside.


Simon Says…

Research shows that ‘mirroring’ can be an effective way to connect with others.  Don’t be obvious, but subtly follow the movements and gestures of your interviewer.  Try crossing your legs or leaning in at the same time as your potential employer.  This simple tactic makes people feel subconsciously more connected and comfortable.  Be careful with this one, less is more!


Whether you’re searching for a job at Starbucks or on the campaign trail to presidency, body language is critical to human interaction and has a monumental effect on perception. These simple tips will make you appear confident, trustworthy and in control, and when you look it, your future employer will believe it.

Photo Credits:

Chris Keane/Reuters




College is hard. We make it easier!

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of HC delivered to your inbox.