With the era of solely video interviews becoming less common and many finance professionals returning to the office, mastering the art of body language when you interview in person is essential. Over video, it was a lot easier to appear presentable and personable, and it was easier to get ready when you were just showing your shoulders and up. It may have also been easier for many people to present themselves over video without the pressure of in-person nerves, sweatiness, and appearance.
The in-person interview is a whole different ballgame, especially since personality and fit are very important for finance jobs where you will likely work long days with your colleagues. Psychologist Albert Mehrabian says that body language accounts for 55% of how people see us, tone of voice accounts for 38% of how people see us, and spoken words are the other 7%. Positive body language is important for any interview setting, particularly for those in finance.
Practice Your Handshake
The best way to make the worst first impression is to have a weak handshake. I’ve been told by many of my peers in finance that the first handshake is an indicator of the person’s personality, even before they start speaking. If the handshake is weak, they’ll assume the person has a hard time advocating for themselves and maybe is shy. On the other hand, a firm handshake conveys confidence.
You can start strong by extending your hand first to shake your interviewer’s hand. If they reach out first, respond quickly so that they aren’t left hanging or feel awkward. While your handshake shouldn’t be limp for the reasons described above, make sure your grip isn’t too strong or your hand will be crushed. When you shake their hand, make eye contact and give a smile and nod, or shake their hand while you’re saying, “Nice to meet you.”
Lastly, if your hands tend to get sweaty from nerves, quickly wipe them on your clothes before shaking someone’s hand. If you can avoid it, you don’t want to be remembered as the interviewee with clammy hands. You should practice a handshake with family and friends until you’re confident.
Be Mindful of Your Gestures and Posture
In terms of gestures, some people talk more expressively than others, whether it’s through their hands, eyebrows, moving their heads, or other ways. It is totally fine to express yourself while you’re speaking using your normal patterns, as this can convey enthusiasm to your interviewer. However, some people tend to fidget, especially when they are nervous, and this can be distracting to the interviewer or let them know that you’re nervous.
Try to identify if you do any of these things when you’re under pressure (i.e., shaking your leg, tapping or cracking your fingers, or playing with a pencil or notebook). If you can practice your answers while being consciously aware of those behaviors, you can work on minimizing them during the actual interview.
Your posture is also an important part of the interview. Most interviews will be conducted sitting down, so you want to make sure you’re sitting up tall and leaning in slightly to show you are interested in what your interviewer is saying. If there is a table in front of you, try to avoid slouching on it or putting your elbows up. This is a careful balance, as you’ll want to mimic the body language of your interviewer if possible.
If they have a more casual stance where they are leaning back in a chair, you can mimic that in the beginning, as many studies have shown that mimicking someone’s body language when they first meet you makes them more comfortable around you. If they are sitting in an overly casual way, you should err on the side of formality to maintain professionalism.
Maintain Eye Contact
One of the most important elements of the interview is maintaining eye contact with your interviewer. Eye contact is important because it conveys respect and establishes a connection with the person you’re speaking with. I find that a lot of people I interact with daily nowadays have trouble making eye contact. To make good eye contact, I’m not talking about fully staring down your interviewer the whole time; there is a natural balance between holding eye contact and breaking it every so often if you’re thinking or writing down notes.
You can practice through mock interviews with friends and get their feedback on whether you can increase or decrease your eye contact. The goal of this is to look engaged and excited about the position; a lack of eye contact can be taken as a lack of interest or respect, even if that’s not what you intend to convey.
Practice your Facial Expressions
One disadvantage of in-person interviews is that you can’t see your facial expressions like you may have been able to on video. If you’re anything like me, I tended to look at myself a lot over video and realized how sometimes my facial expressions appeared tired or disinterested even if I was engaged in the conversation. You want to avoid conveying these expressions in an in-person interview.
You can practice in a mirror beforehand since it’s a bit more representative of what you would look like to someone else (especially if it’s a long mirror and you can practice body expression as well, both standing and sitting). Practice different types of expressions; for example, you may want to practice a smile for when the conversation is more light-hearted as well as a more serious or focused face for when you are asked serious or thought-provoking questions.
Smiles and Nods
Even if the interview is serious, you can show your good nature by smiling and nodding as the interviewer is speaking. Having a serious face during the entire interview may not make people want to work long days or travel with you, and generally being good-natured and funny will garner you more support to be part of the team. Above all, be yourself in these interviews and prepare as much as possible so you can walk in relaxed and confident!
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