Body language in your social work interview
By Luke Aldred
You may have walked out of your social work interview feeling confident. You were able to answer all of the recruiter’s questions and you know that your CV matched the job description. But are you sure that your body was telling the same story? It may sound simple but our body language tells so much more than we may think. It can convey if we feel confident or if we are nervous. It can show if we are paying attention or if we’re struggling to concentrate. In an interview situation where you’re trying to sell yourself it’s even more important that you’re aware of what your body is saying.
We’re not saying to strike your best power poses but making simple changes to how you move and how you sit could change your first impression with the hiring manager.
Improving your body language
When you first walk into the interview room, walk in with confidence (even if you’re feeling terrified). A big smile can go so much further than you may think, so try to greet the interview panel with a warm smile and a hearty handshake.
When you’re sitting down at the table, try to sit as straight as you possibly can – if you’re sat in a neutral position, you’ll naturally feel much happier. In contrast if you slouch in your seat or you’re tapping your foot against the table leg, the hiring managers may think that you’re disinterested or not paying attention. You want them to be thinking about your social work experience and why you’re the perfect candidate for the job. The last thing you want is for them to be distracted by your body language.
Another key tip for interview success is maintaining eye contact. Your interview panel will want to know that you can meet their gaze and answer their questions honestly. As a social worker you’ll know how important eye contact is to effective communication, but it’s a natural reaction to look down when you’re nervous. It may help you to think about your interview as a chance to demonstrate how you speak with clients – after all, you want to show them that you can build rapport, and that you can empathise, relate and advise.
Feel free to use your hands and gesture at things (just make sure you don’t knock over your coffee cup!). When we talk, we naturally move our bodies in time with our words. Sitting still with our hands clasped on our lap or gripped to the chair seat won’t help your nerves and you’ll start to feel very uncomfortable, very quickly. You don’t want to go overboard, but using your hands to emphasise key points may help you to feel confident.
Body language tips to watch out for
As social workers, you’ll meet with a wide variety of people throughout your working day. Try to consider how your clients react when you’re speaking to them. Your training should enable you to detect signs of boredom, inattention or lack of concentration so take a few moments before you enter the interview room to picture what this looks like.
If you’re playing with your hair, regularly touching your own face or sat with your arms crossed then it will be obvious to the interview panel that you don’t really want to be there.
Similarly, if you have a pen on the desk in front of you, please avoid tapping it on the table, or even worse, clicking the top! Not only will it be incredibly distracting to the panel but you may distract your own train of thought as you demonstrate your experience.
Our trained consultants can give you specialist advice on how to improve your CV and how to really prepare for your interview. If you have any questions about how we can help you take that next step in your career, please give us a call!
We have written a selection of pieces around starting and navigating your social work career.