It begins even before you say your first word. They’ll be sizing you up as you walk across the room to shake hands. Be conscious of how you look and what you’re doing, and try not to overlook the verbal and non-verbal signals you’re sending out in the rush to parade your carefully prepared answers before them.
Speak deliberately more slowly than you would normally. There’s a trick here. You’ll be revved up as you go in, so you will naturally speak more quickly than normal. If you concentrate on pronouncing your words individually, you’ll actually be speaking at a normal speed.
Think of good speakers you’ve experienced throughout your education or working life: You’ll remember the ones who were more focused and engaging. That’s not to say they were the funniest or loudest or most entertaining, but they were almost certainly the most animated. Focus. You’re not here to entertain – so leave the jokes at the door – but you are here to look like you want the job. Concentrate on that and let your commitment and energy shine through.
A firm but not crushing handshake is the one to go for. The ‘wet fish’ technique is a guaranteed turn off. Also, try to ensure your hands are dry and warm – as natural as possible. If you tend to perspire under stress, try to run your hands under cold water before going in and if stress makes your skin cold, do the opposite.
Don’t slouch in your chair, whether in reception or the interview room. Slouching says “I don’t care” and should be reserved for lazy Sundays on the sofa. Walk and sit up straight. If you’re worried about your posture, sit naturally in front of a mirror at home and see how you look. Practice sitting in a more vertical position and make a mental note of how it feels, so you can replicate it in the interview.
Always look the questioner in the eye, but not in a way that could have you sectioned. Be confident, and don’t stare past your questioner or at the floor. Avoid glancing nervously around the room as this is the classic sign of someone with something to hide. If there is more than one interviewer, make sure you look at each of them when answering questions and keep your eyes on their face, not straying to other parts of their body (if you know what I mean!).
To find out what to do with your hands, watch yourself in a mirror or the office window when you’re on the phone – you’ll use some of the same gestures when you’re talking. It’s fine to gesture with your hands, but don’t overdo it so you look like you’re directing traffic.
Don’t fidget and don’t play around with your hair, pen, nails, chair, jiggle your knees, tap your leg or anything else. It drives people crazy and will distract them from what you’re saying.
Be aware of how you are sitting, moving and the general impression you’re giving out. So smile occasionally; it will make you all feel better.