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5 Body Language Mistakes You are Making in Interview

Miss Teen of Minnesota 2016, Alexis Schugel, confident and ready for interview at Miss Teen of America (American Pageants, Inc.) 2016 national pageant.
Alexis Schugel, Miss Teen of Minnesota 2016, confident and ready for interview at the Miss Teen of America 2016 national pageant. Photo courtesy of American Pageants, Inc.

First impressions can make all the difference in your pageant interview. Did you know that the typical first impression is formed within just seven seconds of meeting someone? Interestingly enough, most of this conclusion is based on non-verbal cues the messenger (you!) are sending.

Consider “the 7 percent rule” by Professor Albert Mehrabian, claiming that communication is only seven percent verbal and ninety-three percent non-verbal. Although this percentage has been contested, most research indicates that non-verbal communication accounts for 60 percent to 90 percent of all human communication. It is important to consider this concept as you prepare for a pageant interview.

5 Body Language Mistakes You Are Making in Interview

1. Posture Mistakes

Maintaining eloquent posture throughout the interview process is important, right from the moment you walk into the room. One bad habit is the placement of hands behind your back. Not only does it look like “chicken wings,” but you also may appear too rigid and formal.

“Never cross your arms in front of your body or put them behind your back,” said pageant coach Mary Swenson. “Keeping your arms relaxed and natural at your sides does take practice! Be aware of how you are standing and the image you are portraying, especially when you think no one is watching.”

Crossing your arms in front of your chest, as Mary commented, is another mistake that will make you not only appear rigid but closed-off. Your interactions with the judge should be perceived as welcoming at all times. To depict openness, many contestants will lean forward into the conversation. This is great, just don’t lean forward too much. This may be considered an invasion of the judge’s personal space, especially if there is paperwork on the table.

Finally, slouching in your chair. This can be a result of becoming comfortable with your judge – which is awesome – just don’t get too comfortable or you may find yourself slouched over. Envision that your head is attached to an invisible string, connected to the ceiling. This simple visual will help maintain correct posture throughout your interview. (Read: What is the Best Posture for a Pageant Interview?)

2. Distracting Eye Movements

Ever heard the old saying, “the eyes are the windows to the soul?” This is so true in pageant interviews, as your eye movements can tell a lot about you. The first thing to be conscious of is breaking of eye contact with your judge. Although it is a natural to look away every now and again, show you are actively engaged in the conversation with consistent eye contact.

Do your best to avoid darting eye movements, which will indicate restlessness, nervousness or feeling hurried. You do not want your judge thinking you are frantically plotting an escape route!

Finally, please try to be conscious to not over intently stare down your judges in the interview room. This may indicate you are trying too hard, thus not allowing the conversation to naturally flow. Additionally, it can indicate dishonesty by trying to overcompensate and appear as though you aren’t completely forthcoming.

3. Gesturing Excessively

As pageant contestants, we truly enjoy the chance to express our passions through personal interview. While certainly, some gesturing is natural and okay, be cautious to not make over-zealous hand gestures when speaking enthusiastically. These can be huge distractions for your judges. Keep them focused on what you’re saying, not your hands!

In addition, watch that you are not nodding your head excessively. This can be seen as too obedient and seem as though you aren’t listening to the questions. Nod only when you agree or are very enthusiastic about a topic. No bobble-heads here!

4. Unmatched Facial Cues

Facial cues are a large part of how we communicate our feelings. We all have “off days” which may be easily read by others. If pageant interview day happens to be one, it’s important to check those feelings at the door. Change your mindset and attitude to reflect positivity and you won’t risk displaying unmatched facial cues during the interview. Make sure your facials are in synch with the tone of the conversation.

5. Nervousness

Even the most seasoned competitors can get nervous! Fidgeting is a key indicator of a case of butterflies in the stomach. When planning your interview outfit, try to avoid jewelry on your hands such as bracelets, rings and watches as they will be prime “fidget-worthy” targets. It also becomes a distraction to the judges.

Playing with and flipping your hair too much also can portray nervousness or insinuate that you aren’t listening. Plus you don’t want to mess up that lovely interview style! (Read: 4 Best Hairstyles for Pageant Interview)

Finally, many contestants get so focused on other things, they simply aren’t remembering to smile. Certainly, there may be serious moments where naturally you should not smile.  However, forgetting to show those pearly whites in appropriate segments may show nervousness and won’t confirm that warm, sparkly personality!

Going Forward

As you mentally prepare yourself for interview, remember that body language accounts for much of how we communicate. Mock interviews can be a perfect place not only to practice active listening and answering questions but also is a great opportunity to ask your mock judges for body language feedback. (Read: How to Prepare Your Judges For Your Mock Interview)

Be conscious of avoiding these five body language mistakes in interview and it will surely help you succeed in your next pageant interview competition.

Good luck!

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