Updated: Jun 29, 2020
With emphasis on cracking the IIM and other B-school Interviews:
When do you think the interviewers start evaluating you? It's not after the end of the interview, it's not even during the interview, it starts way before! Here are some powerful tips to improve your body language for any interview. I learned them when I was preparing for my B-school interviews and also used them during my summer placements. They worked every single time:
The reason such a simple tip has made it as the first point is not only that it is often forgotten, but also because it leaves a good first impression. I mentioned in the heading that interviewers start evaluating you way before the interview begins. In one of my B-school interviews, I met an interviewer in the washroom (at that time I had no clue she was an interviewer, but she happened to be my panelist). Smiling reflects your confidence level.
Carry only one file
Most often, we carry multiple things in our hands - bags, keys, mobile, file, etc. It is suggested to carry only one thing in your hand - a file containing all your documents should be enough. Try to keep your mobile in a bag outside the room (if possible). Else, switch it off and keep it in your pocket.
Walk and talk (non-verbally)
When you walk inside the interview room, you'd find the panelist(s) sitting already. It is a good opportunity to talk (non-verbally) with them to make a good move. By talking, I mean looking at each one of them for 2 seconds each and smiling while you do that. It communicates your interest.
Greet and shake hands
You should greet the interviewers by shaking hands with them and telling them your full name. Now, the key here is to understand how far are they seated from you. In my B-school interviews, there was a long table between me and the interviewers, so the moment I entered, I decided to refrain from shaking hands, else I would have been like this:
It is a little uncomfortable for both the parties. Also, please don't go over to the side of the panelists to shake hands. That's their territory! Simply nod while greeting them in case you can't shake hands.
Sit with your back straight
Your back should touch the chair from the middle and your upper body should lean a little forward. This shows attentiveness and willingness to be a part of the conversation. You shouldn't slouch. In case the chair is spacious enough and your feet are not touching the ground, you can sit straight without touching your back.
Keep the file off the table
Remember, anything apart from the chair is not your territory. So, you shouldn't keep the file/folder on the table. It should be placed gently on your thighs. In case the interviewers ask for it, you should hand it over without it touching the table. Also, keep your hands off the table.
Feet on the ground
Ideally, your feet should touch the ground and be placed comfortably. It not only makes your posture better but research states that it helps your mind switch from its creative side to the complex reasoning side, thereby helping you answer difficult questions.
Hand gestures are okay
People often wonder if it is okay to use your hands to express yourself. It is perfectly okay as long as you're not over-using them. Not using hand movements can send the wrong signal that you're distrustful or disinterested. You might be listening attentively, but you're not willing to be expressive.
Show your palms
While using your hands, show your palms while talking. In an evolutionary sense, humans associate palms with friendliness and a sign of honesty. It makes the interviewer more comfortable. That is another reason why handshakes are so popular both before and after the interviews.
At times, we tend to mention the interviewers, especially during a stress interview. Please don't address them by pointing at them. It is a no-go area which can get you into trouble. Instead, just refer to them by name or say, "As Sir/Ma'am said" and look at them while you say that.
For tips on how to crack a stress interview, click here
Don't cross your arms or legs
Crossing your arms means you're restricting yourselves and showing disinterest. Similarly, you should not cross your legs at the knees. Crossing your feet at ankles is acceptable.
Don't play with accessories
If you're wearing a wrist watch, bracelet or ring, don't fidget with it. It shows that you're nervous. Similarly, clinging on to the arms of the chair is a bad sign.
While listening to the interviewer, nod your head. It shows that you're understanding him/her. In case you don't get something, don't nod. It will appear strange if you ask the interviewer to repeat when you were nodding the whole time while he/she was speaking.
You shouldn't stare directly at the interviewer, but looking at different points on his/her face will help you maintain eye contact without feeling intimidated. Don't roll up your eyes or look away while answering.
The last words
What you say while getting up at the end of the interview leaves the last impression, which is also called the recency effect. Give a memorable end to your interview by saying, "Thank you for the opportunity." In my B-school interviews, I also used to ask them if I should send the next person in and they always smiled back.
Hope that gives a sense of how to ace an interview using your posture and body language. You may also like How to dress for an Interview