Today, more and more companies are choosing to set up online interviews with potential employees, instead of calling them into the office for a more traditional on-site interview. And while video chats can save time and money during the recruitment process, not everyone likes to be interviewed via video.
There are a number of people around the world who don’t feel comfortable in front of a camera at the best of times. And these individuals don’t just find it difficult to communicate verbally via video chat, but they also subconsciously use negative body language, and this can be particularly damaging when they’re running through a video interview.
You see, when an interview candidate doesn’t feel comfortable their body language gives the game away to interviewers. Actions like, not looking at the camera, fidgeting and sitting with folded arms, may give an interviewer the impression that the interviewee is lacking confidence, might be disinterested in the job and may even be distracted from the video chat. In reality, the person may just be very camera-shy, but is very interested in the role.
Miscommunication, due to poor body language, may be one of the reasons why so many candidates get rejected after interviews, so it’s imperative that you know how to improve your body language ready for video interviews.
According to “The Definitive Book of Body Language” published by the New York Times, which shared the findings of Ray Birdwhistell, a pioneering anthropologist, 65% of communication is done non-verbally. And quite often the power of body language is underestimated. But being able to manage one's body language means that you can help other people to understand your personality, reactions, motivations, and comfort level better.
If you’re about to attend an online interview, and you’re feeling a little concerned about what your body language will tell an interviewer about you, remember these 7 body language tips to boost your video interviewing skills.
1. Make eye contact - look at the camera, not at yourself.
If you don’t know where to look during an interview, just focus on your camera. Put your camera above your computer screen and keep it there. Try to look straight at the camera because it’s like making eye contact with someone.
It’s okay to look at yourself from time to time, but professionals recommend that you look at your interviewer because it shows that you’re interested. When answering questions you can look down at your notes for a couple of seconds at a time.
If you feel uncomfortable looking at people, just try and look at the forehead of the person you're talking to. Again, people will think that you’re looking them in the eye, but in fact, you aren’t.
Don’t be afraid of looking at your opponent because you might find that your conversation will flow better for this very reason. Focusing on your own reflection may create the wrong impression.
2. Sit with a good posture
Sitting up straight shows that you’re confident, it’s a sign of respect and it shows that you’re engaged and interested in the interviewer. And while sitting down, comfortably curled up in your favorite chair may sound more comfortable, it will, in fact, be taken as a sign of indifference by an interviewer.
Basically, any casual posture may be considered as a lack of interest. You should try to sit straight and with your feet on the floor. Even crossing your legs might ruin your posture.
Plus, crossed legs occasionally start to hurt and then you might end up fidgeting in your seat and changing position. This, in turn, may give the impression that you’re disinterested or literally uncomfortable with the situation. Also, avoid making unnecessary movements because you may seem impatient or nervous to an interviewer.
In addition to the above, you should choose a chair with a firm back for your interview (a kitchen chair may even be an option), don’t sit on the edge of your seat, and don’t swing your seat around or lean back too far in your chair. Avoid sitting in armchairs where it might be difficult for you to keep a straight posture.
3. Don’t go waving your hands around
Although your hands may not be visible during an interview, it’s important that you don’t keep waving them about, and gesturing far and wide with them when talking in a video interview. Not only is it very animated and distracting, but too much hand waving can be off-putting on video chat.
If you like to make a lot of hand gestures, try and practice keeping them to a minimum when on video chat. Try to leave your hands on your lap or on your knees. You shouldn’t clench your hands up into fists, rather you should place them loosely on your knees. This will make you look more confident, professional, and it will help you to stay relaxed. And if you’re struggling with the above, you could hold an object in your hand to minimize the moves, like a pen.
If you really feel that making gestures with your hands is appropriate, and will complement the conversation, feel free to add them in.
In addition to the above, try not to cross your arms because this may be taken as a sign of disagreement or of you being closed-off to the conversation. Open arms, on the other hand, symbolize confidence during conversation, and show that you’re relaxed and open to conversation.
Further to this, don’t cover your mouth with your hands, try to avoid touching your face, ears, hair, rubbing your neck, biting your nails, cracking your knuckles, tapping your fingers on the table and rubbing your nose, unfortunately, these moves can be very distracting.
Additionally, you could ask someone to set up a video call with you and they could give you feedback on the points above. They’ll even be able to tell you how distracting they find your hand movements.
4. Tilt your head
Your head is the one thing that the interviewer(s) will see for the entire duration of the interview, so try to face your interviewer(s) as much as possible, and remember to look directly into the camera.
Slight head movements signal to your interviewer that you are listening to them carefully. And leaning your head to one side a little will make you appear friendly, interested, and it shows that you are considering the information the hiring manager has just told you.
Moving your head every so often not only highlights that you’re actually engaged, but it’s also a very natural action to take when conversing with another person.
Avoid tilting your head down for long periods of time, as this may hint that you’re bored or closed off. Of course, if you’re taking notes this is okay, but you should mention this to the interviewer at the start.
5. Lean into the conversation, but not too far
When you hear someone say something interesting in real life, one of the first things you do is to subconsciously lean in closer to the person to show you’re interested in what’s being said.
This can be tricky to do when on video chat because you can’t really lean in too close to your camera. If you go up too close to your camera things will become blurry, and a little uncomfortable for the person on the other end. So, how do you lean into the camera without actually leaning in too much?
Easy, just stay an arms length away from your camera at all times, and only move forward an inch or so when you want to show that you’re interested in what’s being said. You should move just enough so that the interview registers that you’ve shown an interest.
On the flip side of leaning in, if you lean back too much when an interviewer is talking they will think that you’re uncomfortable, you’re distancing yourself from the interview or interviewer, and they might even think that you’re getting a little defensive.
6. Nod when necessary
If you nod when you’re listening to the interviewer talk, they will think that you are paying attention to them. This, in turn, will help you to build a better relationship together because they’ll feel respected by you, and they’ll begin to relax.
Of course, you shouldn’t just keep nodding throughout the entire interview because it will look false. Plus, the interviewer will know that you aren’t really listening, and you may come across as very nervous or even a little desperate.
Nod when it feels natural to do so.
Smiling is a very easy and friendly gesture to make, so smile during your online interviews. Not only will a smile show that you're engaged and ready to ace the interview, but you’ll actually look approachable. Your tone of voice may even become softer and kinder when you smile.
Some interviewers write down if a candidate smiles during an interview and how often too. A simple gesture like a smile can really help to paint a great image of you, so don’t pass up on this opportunity.
Being too serious, not smiling or even being grumpy to some extent during an interview is likely to be misunderstood by an interviewer. And if you choose to behave like this, you might come across as a disinterested and totally unmotivated candidate.
A Checklist To Help You Prepare For A Virtual Interview
Make yourself comfortable. Sit on a comfortable chair in a quiet area when you’re attending your online interview. Try to avoid sitting in your armchair or resting on the sofa. Put your feet firmly on the ground and get ready to listen carefully to the interviewer. As a rule, hiring managers start with some kind of casual talk to break the ice with you, and to make you feel more comfortable.
Review your body language. All you need to do is ask a friend to run a mock interview with you. At the end of the interview you can ask their opinion about how you behaved, and what your body language said about you. The more feedback you get the better you’ll be. When you know your weak points you can start working on improving them as soon as you can.
Record and analyze yourself. If you’re too shy to ask somebody to practice your interviews with you, you can always record yourself and give yourself feedback. Most online meeting tools, like Zoom, have a recording function. All you need to do is review your performance and make notes on areas that you could improve on. Don’t be too critical and don’t pay too much attention to every single small detail. Virtual and traditional interviews often have some sort of weak points anyway, nothing is ever perfect!
Check your connections. Although your body language is vital, you also need to make sure that your computer is plugged in properly, is charged, has an internet connection, and all the tools you need for the interview work. Try rebooting your router or restarting your laptop before the interview to help it run smoother.
Indeed, the list above may be quite extensive, and it may seem difficult at first to put everything into practice, however, you’ll find that you’ll do most of the tips listed above subconsciously during your virtual interviews. You’ll probably be surprised at how natural you act, and how most of the tips above just slip in, without much effort, into your interviews.
Just remember to stay professional, express your interest in the job, and engage with your interviewer during your interviews.
And last, but not least, virtual job interviews are not going to be going anywhere for a very long time, so you need to start thinking of these interviews as your ‘usual on-site interviews’. The way you do the interview may be different, but the questions and structures are likely to be much the same. But you can get the most out of your online interviews by using good body language.