Good body language sends the right message

I recently enjoyed a few minutes with a local newscast discussing a topic that has been confounding job seekers for years: body language in the interview.

To prepare, I hit the Web and found 52,900,000 entries on the subject. That’s 52 million. Let’s just say I was scanning rather than reading by the end of my research.

Working Strategies by Amy Lindgren

Working Strategies by Amy Lindgren

So what did I learn? That a lot of the opinions on this subject sound like hooey to me. Here are a few:

● Using your left hand to touch your face means you’re lying.
● Touching your face at all means you’re lying.
● Crossing your leg by putting an ankle over the other knee means you’re stubborn.
● Rubbing your neck means you’re bored.
● Wherever your knees or shoes point is where your interest lies — so shoes aimed at the door indicate you wish you could leave.

Was it Freud who said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”? He meant that not everything is fraught with meaning, and I’d say that rule applies here. If I’m touching my chin, it’s most likely because my chin itches, not because I’m deep into a fabrication of some sort.

So is the whole concept of body language a flop? No, I don’t think so. I am convinced that we pick up signals that have nothing to do with words, and that our sense of comfort in another person’s presence will deeply influence decisions we make about that person.
But when it comes to interview preparation, simpler is always better. Rather than monitoring the angle of your shoes, you might do better following these basic principles:

● Eye contact is king. Appropriate eye contact will send a message of forthrightness.
● Tall posture makes a good impression. Whether you’re seated, standing or walking into the interview, concentrate on keeping your shoulders back and your chin up a bit. You will convey confidence and vitality.
● Firm, professional handshakes are the standard. Practice until you can give a natural shake without pumping someone’s arm off.
● Seated posture can be the most challenging. Once seated, you need to remain tall in your chair while also looking relaxed.

● All is forgiven if you smile well. A genuine smile that reaches your eyes will go a long way in erasing any uneasiness for you or your interviewer.

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.

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