Most executive-level job applicants carefully consider what they are going to say during the interview, but few take into account the non-verbal cues they may be sending. Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, points out that one's body language when responding to interview questions can have as great an influence on hiring managers as the answers themselves.
"Candidates often spend several hours preparing for interviews, particularly at the executive level, where they are expected to enter meetings with a solid understanding of the business, the industry and the position," McDonald said. "Unfortunately, all of this hard work can be undermined if the applicant fails to pay attention to the manner in which he or she is communicating."
McDonald outlines eight common interview pitfalls as well as advice for avoiding them:
* Having a weak handshake. Right or wrong, many hiring managers believe if your handshake is weak, you may have a personality to match. A firm, quick grip conveys self-confidence and professionalism.
* Avoiding eye contact. While it's tempting to admire the view outside the office window, use eye contact when speaking to the interviewer.
Guard against staring by occasionally redirecting your glance.
* Crossing your arms. Intentional or not, this tells interviewers you're on the defensive -- and it may have the same effect on them. Keep your arms open and to the side, or loosely fold your hands in your lap.
* Invading the interviewer's space. Leaning forward in your seat, for example, may be moving out of the comfort zone between you and the interviewer. Sit upright but relaxed in your chair.
* Making tense facial expressions. It's been said it takes 43 muscles to frown. Try to sense when your facial muscles are tightening, and smile when appropriate.
* Nodding persistently. Nod as a natural response when you strongly agree on ideas or opinions the hiring manager has presented.
* Overusing hand motions. While gestures can help emphasize important points, too much movement is distracting.
* Tapping your fingers or feet. You might have a nervous habit, but these actions will give the hiring manager the impression you are anxious to end the interview. Instead, focus your energy on the conversation.
McDonald noted that group interviews are common for executive-level candidates. "Regardless of who asks the question, try to make direct eye contact with everyone present in order to demonstrate your ability to handle group situations."
David King, Robert Half Management Resources regional manager, said, "Body language is often overlooked in many business interactions. Pay attention to the nonverbal messages you may project in a meeting, such as putting your chin on your hand, crossing your arms or looking at your watch."
Robert Half Management Resources is the world's premier provider of senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project basis. The firm has locations in major cities throughout North America, Europe and Australia, and offers online job search services at www.roberthalfmr.com
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