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How your face and body lets you down during a job interview

job interviews

Smile, but not too much

You’ve got the technical know-how, the experience and have even practised your STAR technique to relay interesting and relevant career stories to impress during the interview process. Yet, for some reason, you keep on striking out.

Could it be that your face has the wrong expression required, you’re speaking at the wrong speed or that you’re inadvertently displaying signs of anxiety that are putting off potential employers.

Maybe. A string of quietly released academic papers in recent weeks shows the importance of body language and facial expressions during interviews. These are not specific to banking or finance, but still worth bearing in mind.

1. You are smiling too much

You might be surprised to hear that there’s been a significant amount of academic research into the benefits of smiling during job interview. Smiling seems like an obvious tactic to ingratiate yourself to an interviewer, but the regularity with which you display your amiableness depends on what job you’re interviewing for.

If you’re in sales, or a teacher, go for it, suggests a new study in the Journal of Psychology called ‘Smiling in a Job Interview: When Less is More’. However, professions where more serious people are needed – in this study a newspaper reporter – it pays to stay stony faced. In fact, any male-dominated industry tends to favour people who retain their ‘masculinity’ by smiling less. Include banking in this.

2. You have failed to ‘power pose’

You are facing a stressful job interview. Before you enter the room, or probably the building if we’re honest, you spend a few minutes in private adopting expansive ‘power poses’ – things like standing up straight, leaning back in your chair or standing forward with your hands on your desk. People who do this were more likely to demonstrate both non-verbal and verbal presentation skills that will ‘captivate’ an interviewer than those who adopted ‘closed’ poses.

The latest study, published in July by the American Psychological Association, reiterates previous research which suggested such poses increased testosterone levels and reduced stress-inducing cortisol.

3. You are speaking too slowly

It’s natural to be nervous during an interview. It’s a pressurised situation and often there’s a lot riding on it. But a new study by Amanda Feiler and Deborah Powell of the University of Guelph in Canada, suggests that only ‘trained raters’ can really spot the physical signs of anxiety like adjusting your clothing, fidgeting or averting your gaze in an interview scenario.

The real differentiator is the speed at which you talk. The fewer words per minute you’re coming out with and the more nervous interviewees are perceived to be. So, if you’re nervous you’re less likely to be seen as assertive and will also appear to lack personal ‘warmth’ – these are two critical factors to getting hired.

4. You are getting the handshake all wrong

Ferdinand Petra, a former VP at Barclays’ investment bank and now an affiliate professor at HEC in Paris, told us previously that the handshake in a banking interview is incredibly important.

If, at the end of the interview, you stand up suddenly to shake hands, you’re giving the interviewer the impression that you’re not prepared. You need to anticipate the moment.

“You need to ease yourself into the handshake,” adds Patti Wood, a body language expert who coaches Wall Street bankers. “You shouldn’t be jumping up to shake hands. When you’re waiting for the interviewee, sit down on the edge of the seat in the waiting area so that you can rise easily and confidently.”

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