5 Body Language Signals Veterans Can Practice for Job Interviews

(U.S. Army/Noriko Kudo)

First impressions are important, especially when interviewing for a job. The person you’re about to talk to likely already has formed an opinion about you from your résumé and cover letter. That’s good news, since you’ve made it to the interview stage. To stay in the running, you’ll need to keep that opinion a positive one.

Since you meet the qualifications for the job, you now have three objectives. You want to demonstrate that you want the job, show them you’re the best choice for the company and still be the likable person anyone would want to work with every day.

A lot of this will be accomplished through what you say, but some of it will come through what you don’t say -- and the interviewer will be watching you.

The way to do it goes well beyond a firm handshake.

1. Practice a “Power Pose”

It may seem silly, but practicing striking a strong pose, where you take up as much space as possible can raise your testosterone levels and lower your performance anxiety. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy discovered that two minutes practicing such a pose before any kind of first meeting will help your confidence and performance.

Most veterans will probably have no trouble with this. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater)

But Cuddy says a good first impression isn’t just about competence. It’s about trustworthiness.

“When we form a first impression of another person, it's not really a single impression. We're really forming two. We're judging how warm and trustworthy the person is,” Cuddy told Wired in 2012. “Research shows that these two trait dimensions account for 80 to 90 percent of an overall first impression.”

2. Practice “Mirroring” Others

Mirroring is exactly what it sounds like, imitating the other person’s body language and hand gesturing. This is something people do unconsciously anyway, but it actually brings people closer together, reinforcing positive feelings about the other person.

When mirroring the person conducting your job interview, it’s important to be subtle about it. After all, you’re supposed to be subtle. If you do this too obviously, you’ll look ridiculous, like you’re mocking them or like you’re on an episode of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?

3. Maintain Good Eye Contact

Good eye contact is important. When you won’t meet someone’s gaze, you appear either untrustworthy or underconfident, and you’ll ruin all the good feelings you just worked so hard to create.

But a constant direct stare into someone’s eyes is also not a good thing. It’s a very aggressive action and can make people uniquely uncomfortable. Try to keep a healthy balance. If you’re already good at making eye contact, you’ll probably be fine in an interview. If you have trouble with it, get some practice by taking a friend to lunch.

4. Keep Good Posture

This shouldn’t be a problem for most veterans, but good posture while standing and sitting exudes a quiet confidence that people may not notice directly. It’s important to keep posture because slouching makes you look sheepish, lazy or disinterested.

Some of us may remember sitting at attention in basic training. Think of that in the interview, but don’t snap to full attention. Remember to keep your back straight, and you’ll be all set.

5. Gesturing While Talking

There’s nothing wrong with talking with your hands while you’re in a job interview. It makes you seem animated, energetic and maybe even a little excited at the prospect of getting a job with their company. As long as the gesturing doesn’t become a distraction, it’s a good thing.

(U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)

Conversely, keeping your hands hidden under a table or worse, crossing your arms and planting your hands on your arms or in your armpits is a no-go. It makes you seem closed off and disinterested in the discussion.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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