Whether you know it or not, you are always communicating whether we are speaking or not. Non-verbal communication is incredibly powerful, and numerous studies conclude that the first impressions generated in the first 30 - 90 seconds of an interview are highly likely to decide the outcome.
Social scientists can devote years of research into understanding non-verbal cues and how they impact our human perceptions. But we don't have years - you have an upcoming interview and you need to shine. We'll share some foundational advice to avoid pitfalls and allow you to shine during your interview.
What natural behaviors to avoid ... and what you can do instead
It's easy in a stressful interview situation to lose your presence of mind and make regrettable faux paus. Considering specific behaviors to avoid will help keep you looking sharp, polished and focused.
When arriving, it can be easy to not show courtesy to the receptionist or assistant that welcomes you to the building. Try to have a professional, brief, and friendly conversation with whoever greets you prior to your interview. This individual may be later consulted by the hiring manager about their experience with greeting you in the waiting room. Holding a friendly, professional conversation will not only you help build your rapport across key employees in the office, but also relax your nerves as you wait for the formal interview.
If in the waiting room or waiting area, avoid killing time on your smartphone. Scrolling through your phone might send a distracted and unprofessional signal, while studying your notes subtly signals your professionalism, focus, and interest in the role. Instead, consider reviewing your interview notes. It helps to have a leather interview portfolio to flip open in this moment, so if you don't have one you can pick up an inexpensive one like the Stylio Padfolio.
When shown towards your interview room, avoid peeking around the door frame asking the interviewer if it is okay to enter. This may even feel like the respectful thing to do, but it can come across as a less confident first impression. During this initial exchange, avoid taking your seat prematurely, as this can lead to an awkward dialog between you, sitting, and the interviewer, standing. Instead, confidently enter the room, make eye contact, smile, introduce yourself, and shake hands. Feel comfortable holding a brief conversation until the interviewer has sat, or has asked you to take a seat.
Don't forget that your conversation with every interviewer will likely begin with small talk about the weather or about your commute. Try to have a conversational and positive response that eases you into the interview conversation. You would want to avoid not being prepared for this basic question and responding with an unusual response due to nerves.
During the interview, avoid overly casual signals such as leaning back in your chair as if you're watching late night tv, or not opening your notebook. A slightly forward posture is appropriate, in front of your leather portfolio, with a pen handy shows that your engaged and taking the moment seriously.
By this point you're easily 30+ seconds into your interview, and can confidently proceed knowing you have developed a solid foundation for your first professional impression. The best advice from here on out, is to have a short memory. Don't fret if you stumble over your words or phrase a response poorly. A seasoned interviewer will likely appreciate your ability to regain composure and finish the interview strong. Interviews are a very human interaction and imperfection is to be expected, at some varying level. Trying to remain present, authentic, and in the moment will help you recover from small stumbles.