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Mastering the Body Language of a Video Interview

by Josh Tolan, Mashable

Walking into an important interview can be nerve-wracking. You’re afraid you’ll say the wrong thing, even though you’ve practiced every possible question and you know your value proposition. Often, however, it’s not our words that give us trouble in an interview setting — it’s our body language.

Body language is not only important when you’re sitting across the desk from your interviewer, but also when the employer resides on the other side of the webcam. Currently six out of 10 employers are utilizing video interviews in the hiring process, either to connect live or to pose questions for job seekers to answer on video.

Your words are important, but your body language can speak volumes, even through a computer screen. After all, only a small percentage of our communication relies on the things we say. In fact, 90% of information that comes to the brain is visual, which explains why people tend to form first impressions so quickly.

It’s important to make the best impression possible in your video interview in order to snag the job. The video interview isn’t exactly the same as an in-person meeting, and therefore there are slightly different body language rules. Here are some tips for acing your video interview, nonverbally.

1. Maintain proper eye contact

Eye contact is extremely important for forming connections with others; in fact 43% of our attention focuses on other people’s eyes during interactions. According to research, people make eye contact between 30 and 60% of the time during average conversation.

In a video interview, it’s essential to make proper eye contact with employers so you can build a connection. Eye contact while using tech devices can be tricky, since looking into your interviewer’s eyes isn’t always intuitive. Strike a balance between looking directly at the image of your interviewer on the screen, and addressing yourself directly to the camera. Resist the urge to look at yourself if your image is visible somewhere on screen.

With many laptops’ built-in webcams, you may have to direct your gaze upwards to the top of the screen. While it might not feel natural, it’s one way to simulate in-person eye contact. Try testing out your webcam or the videoconferencing software/platform you’ll use for the interview with friends or family beforehand to practice maintaining eye contact throughout conversation.

2. Don’t forget to smile

Smiling is a universal facial expression recognized all over the world. When you smile, you seem more approachable, more confident and more trustworthy.

Don’t forget to flash those pearly whites at the camera during your video interview. Keeping a smile on your face will make you seem more personable and relaxed. Employers want to hire someone who will add positivity to the company culture and is passionate and enthusiastic for the job. No matter how nervous you are, make sure to direct a few smiles at the camera — and try your best to make them look natural.

3. Avoid fidgeting

Our nervous energy often manifests itself in the form of physical tics. Fidgeting can encompass everything from moving around in your seat and playing with your hair or jewelry, to tapping your fingers and biting your lip. While fidgeting might be a natural reaction to stress, it also gives employers a less-than-professional impression.

Fidgeting is just as big of a problem in the video interview as it is in person, even if employers can’t see your foot tapping under the table. To cut down on the tendency to physically manifest nerves, try to sit with proper posture in front of your webcam. Keep your hands on the desk and away from your face, and try not to gesture too often or wildly.

Turn off all electronics that might beep, buzz or otherwise distract you from the interview. After all, if you have chat windows popping up while you’re trying to perform a video interview, you might appear distracted, even if your nerves are calm and steady.

4. Practice open body language and mirror your interviewer

Closed body language cuts off conversation, whether it’s crossing your arms or adopting a stern expression. You want to seem professional, but you don’t want to appear hostile during the video interview. This is why many experts suggest interviewees should subtly mirror their interviewer’s body language.

Mirroring, or limbic synchrony, is something we all do unconsciously when interacting with others. We often mirror the body language of those we feel closest to, from colleagues to family members. Whether it’s posture, a gesture or a smile, mirroring can help you feel closer to the person with whom you’re communicating.

This might seem hard to do in a video interview, but it’s important to create a connection with your interviewer without going overboard. You can subtly mirror behavior like leaning forward toward the camera, nodding and smiling. Even if you’re not sitting across from your interviewer, body language translates across great distances. Aligning with your interviewer can give them the impression you’re also aligned with the company and its culture.

Body language is just as important in the video interview as it is for an in-person meeting. By utilizing these simple body language hacks, you can connect with your interviewer and potentially snag the job of your dreams.