As a newcomer moving to Canada, finding a suitable job will likely be a pressing priority. Starting afresh in a new country with a different job market can be daunting, and it is a good practice to start preparing for your job search before you land in Canada. If you’re scheduled to arrive in Canada in the coming weeks or months, you might even have been practicing your responses to commonly asked interview questions in your free time.
However, employers often make hiring decisions based on more than just your responses. They also want to assess your enthusiasm, confidence level, and personability. And your body language plays a huge role in getting the right message across. If you’re nervous during your interview (and it’s perfectly normal to be nervous!), your anxiety can subconsciously manifest as negative behavioural or non-verbal cues. Thankfully, with some practice, you can improve your body language, make a positive impression on the interviewer, and land your first job in Canada.
In this article:
What is body language?
When you’re having a conversation with someone, in person or over a video call, it’s not just your words that matter. Your body language speaks volumes too. Body language is a term that refers to non-verbal cues that form a part of communication.
Most people consciously or subconsciously read your body language while speaking to you and draw conclusions about your level of interest, honesty, and more. Body language includes your posture, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and other movements. Although body language is subconscious, with enough practice, you can control or change the non-verbal cues you give an interviewer or listener.
In an interview, your body language can tell the interviewer a lot about you—even when you’re not speaking. Negative body language like fidgeting, not sitting up straight, or avoiding eye contact, can reveal if you’re feeling nervous, anxious, bored, overconfident, or even if you’re lying.
On the other hand, positive body language can tell the interviewer you’re genuinely interested in what they are saying and in the job. It projects the right amount of confidence and garners the interviewer’s trust.
Unfortunately, body language doesn’t always paint an accurate picture. Often, people pick up certain mannerisms or subconscious behaviours that don’t necessarily reflect their feelings at a given moment. When you’re interviewing for your first job in Canada, it becomes all the more important to mind your body language, so you don’t give the interviewer the wrong impression.
Eight body language tips to help you ace your interview in Canada
As a newcomer to Canada, it’s absolutely normal to feel nervous or anxious during interviews. You may not yet be familiar with the recruitment process or work culture in Canada or may not be a 100 per cent match to the job description. Or you may be anxious about the best way to answer questions about your (lack of) Canadian experience.
However, with a little effort, you can hide your nervousness and ensure that your body language makes you seem confident. Here are some tips to help you ace your job interviews in Canada:
Plan your outfit in advance
Although you want to look your best for interviews, avoid wearing anything you’re uncomfortable in or will need to keep readjusting. If you’re constantly tugging at your sleeve or the hem of your skirt, it’ll be a distraction for both you and the interviewer.
An interview is also not the right time to test a new pair of shoes, especially if you’re prone to shoe bites and blisters. Ideally, plan your outfit well in advance and try it on to make sure you’re comfortable in those clothes. Knowing what you plan to wear a few days before your interview also gives you enough time to get your outfit ironed or drycleaned, so you can put your best foot forward during the interview.
Start off strong
If you’re interviewing in person, your evaluation begins as soon as you enter the building. Remember, you don’t know who the decision-maker is, and often, hiring decisions are made collectively.
Make sure you greet the receptionist and everyone else you see politely and with a smile. If you have to wait for your turn to interview, sit upright in your chair and avoid fidgeting or pacing. It can be overwhelming to have to wait a long time before your interview starts but try not to keep checking your phone or watch.
Be mindful of your posture as you walk into the interview room. Once you’re in the room, look the interviewer directly in the eye and greet them with a smile and firm handshake. If you’re interviewing virtually, your posture, eye contact, and smile are even more important, because the interviewer can only see your face and shoulders on their screen.
|Tip: The interview isn’t over until you are out of the building, so stay professional and polite even as you gather your things, and thank the interviewer before leaving.
Make eye contact
It’s important to hold the interviewer’s gaze throughout the interview. (That doesn’t mean staring!) Looking directly at them builds a connection and gives the impression that you’re confident, honest, and interested in what they’re saying.
Avoid looking at the desk, your hands, or other objects in the room while answering questions. If you don’t meet the interviewer’s eye while speaking, it may lead them to believe you’re lying or not confident about what you’re saying.
Show that you’re listening
Open, positive body language such as nodding, tilting your head to the side, and leaning forward slightly when the other person is talking shows your interest in what they have to say. Generally, in interviews in Canada, your interest in the interviewer signifies your interest in the company.
Know what to do with your hands
For some people, hand movements flow naturally with conversation and that’s okay. Some amount of animation and gesturing shows your personality and passion for what you do. However, you don’t want to be wildly moving your hands around while speaking, as it can be very distracting for the interviewer. Nor do you want to be anxiously tapping your knee, repeatedly touching your face or hair, or fidgeting.
Keeping your arms crossed in front of you is a big no-no, as it conveys distrust, disinterest, or a closed-off personality. Ideally, you should keep your arms positioned loosely by your side or in your lap in a relaxed manner. If you tend to fidget, fold your hands on top of each other or interlace your fingers to limit involuntary movement.
Hold a confident posture
In an interview setting, it’s important to appear confident (even if you’re feeling nervous) and your posture says a lot about your confidence level. Fixing poor posture can be tricky, but if you’re conscious about the way you sit and hold yourself, you can still exude confidence during your interview.
Be sure to sit upright (it’s okay to lean towards the interviewer slightly) and keep your body relaxed, with your feet firmly on the floor and your knees pointing in the direction of the interviewer. If you’re more comfortable with your legs crossed, make sure the leg positioned on your knee is angled downwards, not perpendicular to the floor.
Slouching in your chair can be perceived as a sign of underconfidence, boredom or a mix of the two. On the other hand, sitting up too stiffly can make you come across as unapproachable, unfriendly, arrogant, or anxious.
Take deep breaths
Before entering the interview room, take several deep breaths to calm your nerves. Usually, when people get nervous, they tend to take shallow breaths and talk fast. So, if you find yourself speaking too fast or becoming breathless while answering questions, slow down and take a second to breathe. Breathing deeply evens out your heart rate and helps you relax.
Practice until it’s perfect
Getting your body language just right can be challenging because, often, you’re unaware of the physical mannerisms you demonstrate. So how do you fix what you don’t know?
Here’s a tip: during practice sessions, record yourself while speaking and make note of any repetitive patterns in your behaviour or movements. Then, consciously try to correct them in the next practice session.
Other non-verbal communication mistakes to avoid during an interview
Not all non-verbal communication is about body language. Sometimes, you may be giving an interviewer the wrong signal through other types of behaviour, even before or after the actual interview. Here are some non-verbal mistakes to avoid for your next interview in Canada:
Being late to your interview
Punctuality is ingrained in Canada’s work culture. Although it’s always polite to be punctual, it’s absolutely essential for interviews. Arriving late (or joining a video call late) shows that you don’t care enough to be on time and, consequently, that you aren’t invested in the outcome of the interview.
The impression you make on the interviewer may be of someone who’s not particularly concerned about timelines or who doesn’t respect other people’s time.
Not dressing professionally for your interview
Dressing professionally doesn’t always mean business formal. Your attire should be carefully chosen based on the company culture (ideally one level above what people there normally wear to work). Not dressing appropriately for the company you’re interviewing with can show disinterest, lack of research about the company culture, or arrogance.
Leaving your belongings behind
No matter the role you’re applying for, employers want to know you’re careful and pay attention to detail. Carelessness or absent-mindedness are not traits you want to exhibit during your first interaction with the hiring manager. Be sure to take all your belongings with you after the interview is over, so you don’t have to come back to collect them.
Body language tips for virtual interviews
One advantage of virtual interviews (besides the fact that you can do them from the comfort of your own home or even from your home country before you arrive in Canada) is that your body is only partially visible to the interviewer. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to mind your body language. Communicating non-verbally can be trickier in virtual settings since there’s more scope for misinterpretation.
Many of the points in the above sections apply both in the in-person and virtual setting, but here are some additional tips to help you impress the interviewer during a virtual interview:
- Smile and nod: Since the interviewer is solely focused on your face, it becomes even more important to ensure your facial expressions are clear, pleasant, and attentive. Be sure to keep a smile on your face and nod occasionally while the interviewer is speaking, to show that you’re listening.
- Maintain eye contact: It’s natural for your eyes to focus on the speaker’s face, so make sure the window with the interviewer’s video is directly below your camera. This way, you’ll be looking directly at the interviewer at all times. Avoid looking at your notes or other open windows on your screen during the interview.
- Sit upright in your chair: Your posture depicts your level of confidence and comfort, so be sure to sit up straight. Pro tip: Adjust your chair height and camera angle so you have to sit up straight to appear on the screen properly.
- Get the lighting right and adjust your camera: The interviewer should be able to see you properly at all times. Before your interview, sit in your chair and check that you’re completely visible. If you’re near a window, make sure there’s no glare on your face or the screen. Adjusting your seat, camera, or lighting in the middle of the interview can be distracting, so get your set-up ready before it begins.
- Use (or don’t use) your hands: A limited amount of gesturing can make a conversation come to life. When used right, hand movements can be a great way to non-verbally show your passion and energy. But if you have a tendency to fidget, try sitting on your hands or keeping them under your desk to limit distracting hand movements.
What the interviewer’s body language can tell you
Reading the interviewer’s non-verbal cues can help you assess how your interview is going, and in some cases, can be an opportunity to improve its outcome. Here are some body language signs to watch out for during your interview in Canada:
- Raised eyebrows: Depending on the context, raised eyebrows can be a positive (pleasantly surprised) or negative (shocked) sign. If you see the interviewer raising their eyebrows, mentally go over what you’ve just said and see if you’ve given them cause for disbelief. If yes, you might want to elaborate on your earlier point and provide more proof points.
- Lack of eye contact: If the interviewer doesn’t make eye contact with you, it can be a sign of disinterest. Try to find common ground with them or provide an example that relates to their role in the organization. You can also ask them a question about their work to get their attention back.
- Fidgeting: If the interviewer is fidgeting, looking at their phone, watch or at the door, it can be a sign that they are bored or distracted. Assess whether you’ve been speaking for too long or giving a needlessly complicated example, and try to wrap your answer up quickly. It’s also possible that you’ve been giving more information than is required, so for further questions, keep your responses brief and ask if they’d like more detail. As a general rule of thumb during interviews, use the STAR method to keep your answers short and to the point.
- Leaning back or crossing their arms: Leaning away from you or keeping their arms crossed in front of their body is a negative cue that shows dislike or disinterest. If you see the interviewer doing this, evaluate whether you’ve said something the interviewer may not like or agree with. Try asking a question to regain their interest and make sure your own body language isn’t defensive.
Although it’s always a good idea to keep track of the interviewer’s body language, negative non-verbal signs aren’t always a reason to worry. The interviewer’s body language can sometimes be deceptive. For instance, some interviewers use the stress interview approach and purposely send signals of disinterest through their body language to try to make interviewers nervous. However, watching the interviewer’s non-verbal cues can help you retain their interest and impress them with your responses.
Being mindful of your own body language will help you make a positive, lasting impression and improve your likelihood of landing a job in Canada. To start with, you can record your practice interview sessions or ask a friend or family member to observe you and make note of any body language mistakes you’ve been making consciously or unconsciously. This will serve as a starting point for you to actively avoid these gestures or postures, so you can come across as more confident, friendly, and knowledgeable during your job interviews.