Patti Wood, author of SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma, suggests the following tips to help you wow your interviewer:
Palm-to-palm contact is key. Wood explains: "My research suggests that palm contact is more important than how firm your grip is … If someone shakes hands with you and gives you just her fingers and not her full palm, at a subconscious level you may think, 'What is she hiding? What is she keeping from me?'" Evaluate the all-important handshake and worry less about if you have a firm enough grip and more about extending your entire hand and palm when you greet someone.
How to sit. Don't make yourself smaller in stature. Appear brave by keeping your body open. Wood notes: "Keep your arms away from your body, legs uncrossed, and shoulders down and back."
Also take note of how you sit. Wood adds: "Research says that women perch, sitting on the edge of the seat, arching their backs, while men tend to slouch, relying more on the backrest. Perching the entire time makes you look less powerful. Vary your position, use lots of space, and put your arms on the armrest to look confident." When you position yourself effectively, you'll appear confident, vital, and energetic.
Show your hands. Showing your hands helps you appear open and approachable. "Don't hide your hands under the table or in your pockets or tuck them away," Wood notes. "Keep your hands open and in view on the table or the arms of the chair."
She also adds: "Gesture normally. Your hands show your emotional state. When you close your hand, the amount of tightness and the way the fingers curve show how you feel about the topic. In an interview, you want to be open, not closed."
Match and mirror. Research shows that people hire people who are like them. Use body language to help convince your interviewer that you're a good fit. Wood suggests you "match and mirror your interviewer enough at the beginning of the interview to make him comfortable with you. For example, lean slightly in the direction he is leaning, for instance, or match his smile with one of your own."
Get grounded. When the going get tough, the tough get grounded. "When people are nervous, they tend to either move a lot or freeze," Wood says. "To overcome the toughest interview questions, put both feet firmly on the ground. This makes it easier to use both hemispheres of the brain—the rational and the creative-emotional. Or, if you feel yourself freeze, move your feet in some way."
End well. While first impressions are important, people will also remember the last thing you do or say. Wood suggests: "As the conversation winds down, make sure your belongings are on the left side of your body so you can easily shake with your right hand. You may shake hands more than once—when you get up, at the door, and after talking for a bit longer while parting." Even if the interview didn't go as well as you might have liked, keep focused and poised until the end and you may be able to improve the impression you leave.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.