Presidential Debates Offer Body Language Tips for Job Interviews

Released: 19-Oct-2012 8:30 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Wake Forest University
Contact Information

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Katie Neal, nealkc@wfu.edu, (336) 758-6141

Newswise — Considering President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney are seeking the nation’s top job, watching Monday’s Presidential debate could be just the prep needed to ace your next job interview.

Sound like a bunch of malarkey? Not so fast.

While pointing fingers, interrupting and smirking are never recommended in a professional setting, job seekers can learn a lot from the candidates’ speech and body language, according to Melvin Scales, executive coach and Wake Forest University Schools of Business Assistant Director of Student Career Services.

“Regardless of your political affiliation, the debates are a one-stop shop for observing what body language and speech styles reflect the impression you want to leave with a potential employer,” said Scales, who has more than 35 years of combined executive coaching and brand management experience. “Job candidates should seem confident, not cocky. When it comes to composure, practice makes perfect, regardless of the setting.”

Given that we only have seven seconds to make a good first impression, it’s important to make every second count. Scales said 75 percent of that impression comes from body language such as strong eye contact, a slight smile and a firm handshake; pleasant conversation accounts for the other 25 percent.

At Wake Forest, Scales coaches students to control their body language using a technique he calls “head, shoulders, knees and toes.”

Head
• Keep your eyes focused on the interviewer without staring. Blink, but don’t wink.
• Smile now and then to assure the interviewer that you understand what is being asked, as well as during your responses. This generates confidence.
• Don’t look up or from side to side when responding to a question. Averting your gaze makes you seem less certain, trustworthy and truthful.

Shoulders
• Keep your back straight, head up and with your arms at your side or hands clasped below your waist.
• Minimize the use of your hands during the interview. They should remain below shoulder level at all times.
• When you want to make an emphatic point, lean slightly towards the interviewer without invading his or her space, which is about three feet.

Knees and Toes
• Men should sit with backs straight and feet flat on the floor. Women’s legs should be crossed at the ankles underneath the chair.
• If part of the interview is conducted while walking and talking or standing, be careful not to shift your weight or rock.

“While job interviews are hardly the confrontational settings we see in debates, they are a good reminder that talking over others is never okay,” said Scales. “Often the most memorable moments of political debates are of what not to do. When job seekers see how distracting taking copius notes, gulping down water and laughing off questions can be, they will be less likely to make those mistakes.”

About Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at www.wfu.edu.


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