Interview body language

Over the last few days, in the last few blogs, I’ve considered some of the real-life issues that make online interviews different and, in some respects, more difficult than the traditional face-to-face question and answer session.  However, it should be remembered that, a) most people do not do interviews very often and consequently get worried/nervous about them, and b) the essential elements are the same, whether it’s face-to-face or online.

Preparation is vital.  That means finding out about everything you can about the company/organisation to which you are applying for a job.  A colleague recently spoke to the person who heads up the Scottish operation of one of the world’s major newspaper groups about their graduate recruitment programme. He was told that the successful candidates not only have to demonstrate a serious and long-term (from age 15 or thereby) commitment to journalism (ideally including some media experience and preferably a personal, topical and lively blog), but they should also know all the key editors/journalists on the titles, the circulation of the papers, the cover price, their social media followers, any other media channels they have and an obvious determination to chase down stories.  Replicate this for any job and you are doing the right things.  Much – most – of it will not come up in the interview, but if it does your attention to detail will impress.

Secondly, we all know that first impressions are vital.  Remember to smile, even if you are recording answers to a pre-interview questionnaire. Make a conscious effort not to speak too quickly.

Memorise your CV. This sounds like it should be a given, but it’s amazing how many people look startled or forget something when they are asked a question about their previous employment history or non-work interests.

Prepare and practise answers to the most likely questions and also to the key parts of your CV as they pertain to the job in question.  Also, have some good questions to ask the interviewer: this is where all your pre-interview research comes into play.  Interviewers are genuinely impressed when someone has a clear command of the issues around their business.

(Try to) relax. Take a deep breath, soften your shoulders, loosen your hands and fingers and feel at ease before you begin the interview.  If you find your nerves getting to you, some people find that deliberately tensing their muscles and then letting them loosen slowly (you can do this without anyone noticing) helps them stay calm.  A good tip I picked up recently is that if you are nervous or uncomfortable, put a picture of someone you know (partner/child/friend) by the camera.  This can make you feel subconsciously as if you are speaking with a friend.

It’s more difficult to pick up body language and cues online (although good interviewers will allow for this), but be careful not to talk over anyone.  Don’t constantly look off-camera: maintain eye contact with your interviewer(s).

Of course, if you have done your homework and practised beforehand, you are much more likely to be in control of the situation and come away feeling you have done everything you can to get the job. And, to finish on a high note, you don’t have to worry about shaking hands at the end of an online interview.  Good luck! 

Julie Skinner, Benefits and Resourcing Specialist, RGU