Ask James Caan – Issue 63
Last week’s column attracted a big response from you all. It was interesting to read through your letters and learn about the lengths you are pursuing to find new opportunities.
This week I’ve chosen to remain on the subject of interviews by talking about the importance of body language and appearance.
As a response to my last column, Mike, CEO of the Ascot Barclay Group, wrote to me asking how important body language is and if body language training was effective.
He also asked: ‘How proficient are candidates (or recruiters) generally? Are the skills in this area as utilised by the best performing candidates teachable?’
Mike, using the right body language is incredibly important. As an umbrella term, it involves many areas, from the way you sit and your facial expressions, to how you engage within a conversation or shake my hand.
Conveying the right body language whilst maintaining a good level of self-awareness is incredibly important to any interview or in fact any business situation. You can study the art of body language, of mirroring techniques, of neurolinguistic programming, but the basics aren’t rocket science. You just need to make sure your body language matches the message you are sending out verbally.
The skills are teachable, and anyone in the position of assessing someone’s performance in a mock interview setting should include them as part of your critique. Yet whilst there are numerous courses available, success in an interview will be down to the right blend of body language and the skills/experience you can bring to the table.
Non-verbal communication can speak volumes. As an interviewer I know I’m going to interview at least ten people, and most of the decisions I make will be unconscious. Unconsciously I’m decoding the messages you project.
Of course most of the time it is down to nerves. But everybody gets nervous – even me. I tell people that nerves are important as they show you care; however, they can also ruin the perfect pitch.
As a result, body language training can help. Whether you opt to study it or conduct your own personal research, especially in today’s current job seeking climate, taking the time to look into it would be a key recommendation of mine.
Appearance is also a big factor in the interview. Investing in a good suit is always going to be the safest option and will show the interviewer you have put some thought into your meeting.
Before going over the top, try to gauge the environment of the hiring company. This can be tricky, but go onto their website or request their brochure to gain an insight into the working culture.
Mike, as you mentioned in your email, body language training can be offered at many levels up to advanced level. Studying for an advanced level of understanding would do wonders to any interview and presentation, but it depends on if you have the time and resources to invest.
At a basic level, people do understand the implication of avoiding eye contact or sitting with your arms crossed – but as we all know, an interview can present a surreal setting. Emotions and nerves are heightened and when you’re struggling to remember your answers, you can often forget how you are presenting yourself.
Some recruiters will have undergone body language coaching in their training, and can advise candidates on ways to improve. If you’re not meeting with a recruiter, it is also worth carrying out practice interviews with friends or colleagues who can advise you on your overall practice.
Overall, how you project yourself on the big day can help or hinder your application, but if you prepare and practice properly, you will start to feel more confident sooner.