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Legal Interview Skills: Is Your Body Language Letting You Down At Interview

  • March 5, 2019

Your legal interview is just around the corner, and you have practised your responses to a list of the most common legal competency-based questions; but have you missed something critical to the process?

Your body language.

There has been extensive research into what impact our verbal and nonverbal communication can make and it’s fascinating. Have a look at Professor Albert Mehrabian’s work on the communication model. Here are a few key points he identified that are important in an interview situation.

  • 55% of the message we communicate relates to our body language and facial expression
  • 38% of the message we communicate relates to our voice tone and the way words are said.
  • 7% of message ONLY relates to the words we communicate

It probably now makes sense why our nervousness can easily lead to a host of body language mistakes, from unconscious fidgeting to awkward facial expressions.

Unfortunately, since half of the interviewers decide whether a person is right for the job before they ever have a chance to answer a question; the way you present yourself is more important than ever.

The good news is the common mistakes interviewees make can be rectified fast provided you know what they are.

So here, in no particular order, are the most common mistakes we see:

1. Forgetting to Smile

Anxious, stone-faced candidates don’t do well in interviews; no matter how good your law degree is. Even if you have the best legal CV in the UK, it’s important to sell yourself as someone that has a pleasant manner and will fit into the culture of a legal firm.

No-one wants to work with someone who’s constantly nervous or grumpy.

Not only can smiling make you appear warm and friendly, but it could calm your interview-based nerves. A genuine smile will help to decrease stress in your system and ensure that you feel more confident than you would with a frown.

2. Poor Eye Contact

In the world of body language errors, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to avoid eye contact with your interviewer. Hiring managers want to see the confidence in their prospective candidates, and keeping your vision cast down towards the floor makes you look nervous and lacking in confidence.

Though this can be a part of your personality, it’s something you need to consider and address.

Although you don’t want to ‘stare’ your interviewer out with too much intense eye contact, looking at them when answering their questions, or listening to their responses is of paramount importance in an interview.

It shows that you’re engaged in the conversation and providing your full attention. If you’re in a group interview, it’s best to make sure that you maintain eye contact mostly with the person asking the questions, while looking at the other people in the room from time to time.

3. Too Many Hand Gestures

When it comes to the hands, many candidates believe their handshake is the biggest threat to their chances of success; wrong.

Though it might surprise you there’s more you can do to damage your first impression than giving a handshake that’s too weak, or too strong.

From our own experience screening legal candidates over the last 20 years and talking to the legal hiring managers we work with, too many hand gestures while talking is distracting.

Although talking with your hands might be a common habit, it’s something you should cut down on when preparing for an interview. The more nervous you get, the more uncontrolled your movements can become, which never communicates what you have to offer in the best light.

4. Crossing your Arms

Though you might think this doesn’t happen any more in an interview situation, it still surprisingly does.

Remember in an interview situation people often see crossed arms as a sign that the person they’re talking to is disengaged, bored, or even worse – defensive.

While it’s highly unlikely you are feeling any of these emotions, sadly for you, this could be what you are communicating.

Sometimes, crossing your arms can make you feel more comfortable or protected in an interview situation, but it also blocks you off from your employer. Instead, think about how you can portray interest and engagement with your body language, by keeping yourself open, perhaps with your hands by your sides, and your body angled towards the interviewer.

5. Poor Posture

Finally, sitting slumped in your seat won’t portray you as a confident, professional person who your hiring manager would be happy to put in front of a new legal client.

No matter how tailored your suit may be, a bad posture can cause you to appear uninterested, or again even lack in confidence, possibly even rude.

Keep your spine straight against the back of your chair, and square your shoulders. This will help you to look more confident and show that you respect your interviewer and the potential job ahead of you. A strong posture stands out, making you look more like a leader. If you can’t sit straight, then focus on leaning slightly towards your interviewer, to show engagement.

So often candidates focus their interview preparation on preparing to answer questions that they
will be asked.

Remember, what you say accounts for just 7 % of how you communicate in your interview. How you communicate those words will be the difference that makes the difference.

Practice how you want to deliver your answers as well as what you plan to say.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help.
Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year download our latest guide here.

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