Body language and facial expressions are essential sources of communication.
If you are a job seeker, you are probably thinking “What?! It is bad enough that I need to worry about creating a resume, worry about building my network, worry about dressing to impress and what I am going to say in interviews. Now you want me to worry about my body language too?!”
Well, yes. But it isn’t as difficult as you might first think.
We all spend time trying to decipher what others’ nonverbal cues mean, and they are doing the same to us. Imagine yourself in a job interview. Just as your voice, inflection, and words say a lot about how confident you are feeling in the moment, so does your body language and facial expressions.
Body language is exactly what its name implies. It is the language of your body. It is how you communicate your emotions, intention, and meaning through nonverbal cues, using your hands, posture, movement, and facial expressions. Your whole body is involved in communication with others; it can either illustrate or conceal your true mental state.
When you are job searching and actively interviewing, learning to carry yourself with confidence will not only tell others how you are feeling but also bolster your personal power, as well.
How Body Language Can Improve Your Confidence as a Job Seeker
Your body language doesn’t just influence other people. It can, in fact, change you.
Positive body language, such as making eye contact, holding your head high, and standing up straight, can improve your self-confidence and add to your sense of competence.
Believe it or not, your attitude can shift based on your body language. This is because your nonverbal cues, it can improve your mood as it influences your brain and your hormone levels. When you use positive body language, it can influence your brain, releasing hormones which in turn enhance your confidence.
Positive body language can also decrease the hormone released when you are under stress as you are likely to be during a job interview or networking event.
You want to appear likable and approachable by others when job searching, and positive body language will help with this. This is especially important when networking and at job interviews. Body language heavily influences how others feel about you, so using positive cues can help prospective employers feel more favorable toward you.
Your positive body language conveys your competence to other people, another huge benefit to a job seeker. Positive body language also has a positive influence on others, creating a ripple effect of positivity on those around you. This can enhance how you feel about others, as well.
Finally, confident body language improves your ability to effectively communicate how you are feeling to others, which is also known as emotional intelligence. Surveys have found that emotional intelligence is the strongest indicator that a job seeker will be a high performer.
The first step to learning to use your body language to project your confidence as a job seeker is to learn to decode others’ nonverbal cues. Decoding is deciphering how others are feeling or what they are thinking based on the available information. You can learn a lot just by watching other people, even strangers, throughout your day.
Pay careful attention to the facial expressions of others. How do people subtly communicate their fears, worries, passions, and joys through small but significant changes to their faces?
What can you learn about confidence by watching those in your life you think have the most strength?
Watching others can help you decode their nonverbal cues, and you can learn from them how to portray the confidence you feel inside but may not be showing to the world.
Negative Body Language to Avoid
There are many things you do that communicate to others that you are upset, angry, hurt, nervous, insecure, or hiding something. As a job seeker, you both want and need employers to see you as confident, genuine, and competent. Here are some negative body language gestures, expressions, and postures you should avoid.
If you are having a meaningful conversation, especially during an interview, avoid putting your hands over your face. Covering or partially covering your face shows your nervousness to others. Make sure your face is clearly visible throughout the meeting or interaction.
Where people look while they are talking can tell you a lot about their feelings and meaning. Those who shift their gaze or avoid eye contact while talking are often perceived as untruthful. Maintaining eye contact is critical during interviews for this reason.
Many people have a particular “tell” when they are holding something back. A common nervous tic when hiding something is to bite your lips or fold your lips into your mouth. This gesture is literally showing others that you are trying to keep something inside, which may mean you do not have the confidence to say what you mean or need.
Frowns are not the only facial expression that tells others you are unhappy. When you keep your face neutral or without facial expression, you are also viewed as unhappy.
One way you may unintentionally be communicating with other people is by fidgeting. While you may be doing it because you are nervous, others often misconstrue this as impatience or a desire to be somewhere else.
When meeting someone new, some people unconsciously raise their chin up. This signal is often read by others that you are conceited, so you may want to work on keeping that chin level with the ground if that is not how you are feeling.
A clenched jaw is another signal that others may misinterpret. While you may be feeling stressed and clenching to try and manage that energy, others may see it as anger or frustration.
Slouching your shoulders is usually a sign that you are overwhelmed, which does not show others that you are confident in your ability to overcome your obstacles.
Positive Body Language to Practice as a Job Seeker
When you are trying to make a good first impression, introduce yourself to a new networking contact, or interview for a job, you want others to think you are confident and sure of your ideas and self.
Even when you are not feeling 100% confident, looking the part to others will make them think you are, which will help to boost your confidence anyway. So, changing your body language can indeed change your mood and outlook, helping you feel more confident than you are. No matter what you are feeling inside, people will respond to your actions and expressions on the outside.
Those who are the most successful understand this and project confidence and sureness, no matter the situation. You can take your cues from them and use these simple body language changes to show your determination to others, no matter the situation.
Here is a checklist to make sure you have all your bases covered:
• Are you keeping good eye contact?
• Are you standing or sitting up straight?
• Is your head held high?
• Are your hands still or being used to gesture instead of fidgeting?
• Do you appear relaxed and in control?
• Are your movements slow and deliberate?
• Is your handshake firm?
• Is your face relaxed and showing positive emotions?
• Are you aware of your facial expressions when others are talking?
• Are you using an open palm to show important things?
• Are you wearing clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident?
Tips To Learn New Body Language
As with learning any new skill, learning new body language techniques takes practice. If you have a big job interview coming up or a networking event, it is important to practice not only the words you plan to say but also your posture, gestures, and other nonverbal cues that will convey your knowledge, confidence, and authority.
When trying to learn other, new behaviors, you can practice in everyday situations. Try out your new posture and relaxed face at the dinner table. Use lunch with your friends to work on showing others you are listening and focus on making eye contact. Use every available opportunity when interacting with others to practice your non-verbal communication skills.
Another helpful tool is to video record yourself and watch it to analyze your body language. Asking for feedback or advice from trusted friends can also be helpful. Other people see you differently than you see yourself, so ask those closest to you what they think about specific habits you have.
The bottom line: Using positive body language can not only show others that you are confident but can even make you believe you are, as well. Your body language and other nonverbal cues communicate a great deal to other people, and it is vital that you learn to use these tools to your advantage if you want others to perceive you as confident.