Never Touch This During an Interview

We say much more with our bodies than our words. Sometimes our bodies even betray us by telling the whole truth of our emotional state when we’re trying to convey something else. While most of us understand this intellectually, drawing awareness to specific body language queues can support you when preparing for your next interview, after all, we’re all told that leaders need to exhibit executive presence to be seen as confident, competent leaders; and being “seen” is happening both consciously and subconsciously by your interviewer.

When humans are threatened, there is a specific behavior they do to pacify themselves, resulting from a stress response. Both men and women alike will grab, massage or stroke their… neck. Think about it; the neck represents one of the most vital parts of the body – we have a major blood supply traveling from the command center in the brain to our vital organs in the body, all of which is keeping us alive. The neck is also quite fragile and relatively easy to break. It’s no wonder that when threatened, our hard-wired biological instinct is to wrap our hands around the neck as a form of protection.

Grabbing our neck is a behavior most of us do unconsciously. It happens when we see, hear, or experience something unpleasant. However, it is one of the most defensive body postures you can make. Remember, in an interview, you’re trying to convince the interviewer that you are competent. We know that confidence translates to competence. So if you’re displaying any defensive posture, (crossed arms or legs, as well as a furrowed brow) especially a defensive position that suggests you’re threatened (hands on the neck), it won’t bode well for your interview.

Interestingly, your interviewer may not be conscious of you signaling your distress, but they’ll pick up on the nuance of your body language and then potentially make an attribution error, such as “your answers weren’t sufficiently flushed out”, or “your experience wasn’t an exact fit”. When compared to another candidate that was able to demonstrate confident body language, they’ll favor that individual over you; and you, the neck grabber, will walk away without an offer.

So what to do?! Stop grabbing your neck. Now that you have this awareness, be exceptionally in-tune with where your hands are in an interview. Keep them away from your body; keep your hands palms up, which shows honesty, and keep them slightly moving in animation with your responses. Now that you’re aware of this, start noticing how many people are grabbing their necks in meetings – it’s pretty astonishing!