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Body language and attire – how important are they at interview really?

Posted on 20th November 2018

First impressions count, we all know this but what a lot of people don’t realise is that most of the information we take away from that first meeting comes from your body language. This is especially true when we’re interviewing for a new job! From the moment you walk into a room your body language is subconsciously analysed and assessed.  So, if you want to be successful you’re going to need to consider the way you come across.

The simple things make a difference. When your interviewer comes to greet you, ensure you stand up to shake hands. It shows you’re confident, establishes you as their equal, and shows a respect for the person you’re meeting. “If someone stays seated when I come to greet them, it always feels as though they’re only half interested in meeting with me” says Kalpna, Associate Director of The Maine Group and 15 years+ experienced Recruitment Consultant. Set yourself off to a good start with confidence and respect.

Next you need a good, strong handshake. ‘It’s always a surprise when people come in with a weak handshake; you can be the most confident person in the world, but poor handshake technique really undermines that”. To a degree, this comes with practice. You don’t want to crush the recipients hand, but you also want to avoid a limp wrist. A good handshake shows confidence and is something that we generally take for granted but is an important subliminal indicator of a person.

“it’s so important to get this right – and you only get one shot”

While we’re on the subject of hands, don’t hide them away! When you’re speaking, your hands do 50% of the work. You don’t want to look like you’re conducting an orchestra, but you naturally use your hands when you speak to emphasise your point and engage your audience. If you’re keeping your hands under the desk the whole time or in your lap you’re missing out on a whole heap of available communication.

Now on to your attire…

15 years ago, there used to be a strict rule of thumb as to what was acceptable and what was not. This has relaxed quite a bit in recent years but it’s still important to gauge the company you’re visiting to understand the acceptable dress code. The key here is to research your company! If you’re working with a consultant, they’ll be able to give you some guidance here, but you will also need to look up the organisation you’re looking to join. Are they corporate? Are they casual? Or are they somewhere on the business casual spectrum? It’s important to get this right for interview, it helps the interviewer picture you at the company – if you’re interviewing at a media start-up where the team wear jeans and jumpers, interviewing in a three-piece suit adds an extra barrier to showing how well you’d fit in that organisation, and the same works the other way around. Try and get a feel for the company culture to guide you on what to wear.

As a rule of thumb however, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed!

What happens if you miss the mark? “If you’ve not quite got it right, don’t be afraid to address it. If you’ve turned up in corporate attire to a more relaxed environment it won’t hurt your case to let them know that you would rather be overdressed than underdressed for an interview”

Lastly, if you are professional, relax a little, and be yourself, your body language will help carry you through any situation. Stay positive and it will show!

If you have any questions or have an interview coming up and need some advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Maine Team!