The Power of Hand Gestures During Interviews

By Stephen Pritchard

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The Power of Hand Gestures During InterviewsIn June 2012 social Psychologist Amy Cuddy gave a TED Talk called ‘Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are’. In it she explains how adopting ‘power poses’ for a few minutes (such as legs broadly apart with hands on hips) can trigger hormones that improve our confidence. It’s since been watched more than 30 million times.

It’s obvious how striking a power pose before a job interview – but what can you do when you’re actually in the interview room sitting across the table of the hiring manager? Pulling out a Superman pose must be one of the surest ways to make sure you don’t get the job.

Luckily you can still appear confident with some more subtle body behaviour – in fact, a few simple hand gestures can help put you at ease and suggest to the interview that you’re calm and in control.


Inspire confidence

If you’ve power posed before your interview you should hopefully feel pretty relaxed and assured of yourself. Make the most of this by deliberately positioning your hands and arms to inspire an immediate look of confidence. Crossed arms can appear defensive and off-putting, so rest your hands on top of each other, or keep one on the arm of your chair. By taking up a wider position, this can make you appear more powerful and assured, immediately creating a positive impact on your interviewer.


Move – but don’t fidget

Staying fixed in the same position for the entire duration of your interview will not only feel pretty uncomfortable – it will also make you come across as unnatural and stiff in your communication too.

While you’ll want to avoid fidgeting and moving around excessively, by adjusting your position to subtly mirror your interviewer, you can help relieve your nerves whilst showing the other person that you are comfortable too.


Use hand gestures to communicate

How you use your hands during your interview may say more about you than you realise. One simple point to pay attention to is the position of your palms - keeping your palms facing up or down can convey two very different messages.

An open palm facing to the sky is often seen as a very honest and open gesture. It shows that you’re a trustworthy and reliable person, and can encourage the listener to be more accepting of what you have to say. Be sure you keep the shoulders relaxed and neutral – shrugging your shoulders with palms open can make you look weak and resigned.

If someone is speaking to you with downward facing palms, then you may probably already feel that the conversation is about to get tough.

Having your palms facing down indicates a position of dominance and firmness. It shows that you’re not going to be easily moved from your position.


Cultural differences

Not all cultures interpret hand gestures in the same way – if you’re having an interview in another country, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with differences across various parts of the world.

For instance, a thumbs up position might seem like the universal sign to show your approval. But in many Asian countries, it can be a seriously offensive gesture to make. And while thumbs down is generally accepted as a negative gesture, in some countries it can be an extreme way to show your disapproval of something, as it can be interpreted as a highly rude and arrogant move.


Limit your use of hand gestures

While hand gestures are an effective and natural way to communicate, be wary of using them excessively.  

Using a wide variety of gestures repeatedly can in fact make you appear confused or restless – and may distract your interviewer from what you are saying. Keep your gestures smooth and natural at all times.


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