How Your Body Language Affects Your Residency Interview

It is common knowledge that what you say during a residency interview can have a great effect on how well the interview goes. Prepared candidates spend a long time carefully composing answers to the most used interview questions to ensure they are giving answers that paint them in the best light. However, many candidates do not think about the message their body language is giving along with the words they are saying.

Communication is 7% what you say, 38% how you say it, and 55% body language.

Your body language as you talk can be more honest than the actual words you are speaking. For example, your tone might sound confident and assured, but if you’re wringing your hands and twitching your leg, you are sending a mixed message to the person interviewing you. They might pick up on how nervous you are or think you might not be telling the truth.

In order to give the most effective communication during an interview, there are two things you need to be aware of when it comes to body language.

First, know yourself. One must be knowledgeable about their body habits in order to properly keep them in check while interviewing. Ask yourself, “What are my nervous habits?” so you can monitor them throughout the day. Everything you do must exude confidence, self-assurance, honesty, openness, and comfort.

From when you walk in, your stride should be even and strong. Greet each person you meet with:

  1. Appropriate eye contact (Don’t look away too soon or stare)
  2. A firm handshake (Don’t be a loose fish or break their hand)
  3. Your most warm and genuine smile

Throughout the interview day, you want your body to demonstrate how enthusiastic, honest and open you are. For example, keep your hands out of your pockets, leave your arms uncrossed and keep that good eye contact.

While speaking with interviewers, you want to practice active listening habits such as nodding and giving verbal affirmations. It is also good to lean forward (slightly). Leaning back in your chair could communicate disinterest or laziness.

Be careful of sudden shifts in your body language as these could give away your true thoughts and feelings. Interviewers watch for how you react to difficult questions to see if you still have an emotional connection to the circumstances. This can be anything from frowning to crossing your arms, jiggling your foot or tensing up.

TIP: A great way to learn about your body language habits is to film yourself answering a question. While this can feel embarrassing or be hard to watch, it is one of the best ways to spot problem behavior and correct it. 

Second, you want to know your interviewer. If you are paying attention, you can learn a lot about how you should act by mirroring how the interviewer is acting. Are they laid back and laughing, or do they seem to want to stick to the utmost professional behavior? If they are formal, you would certainly not want to go in for a hug.

It is very important that you do not invade your interviewer’s (or anyone else’s) personal space. Don’t hold their hand too long during a handshake, don’t pop their personal bubble and NEVER go behind their desk.

By taking your cues from your interviewer, you can avoid making most awkward body language errors.

Prepare for your interview further by practicing with a friend or family member. They should not only be paying attention to what you are saying, but also identifying potentially negative body languages habits. You can also set up a video camera, tape yourself practicing, and watch the tape to see what you look like while answering questions.

The most important tip is to feel comfortable being yourself. When you get nervous, you may exhibit more, unnatural habits. Programs want to see how you are naturally to best judge how you will be during residency. Knowing how to use body language properly can help you show the programs you are the right fit for their staff.

If you have obtained any interviews in the past, or as you attend interviews this season, please consider sharing your unique interview experience with the residency community. All of your anonymous contributions will also help grow the InterviewLink (I-Link) feature.

Please provide your feedback by following this link:

(Content Updated: September 26, 2017).


Next ArticleDealing with Residency Interview Anxiety