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Unsure how to sit during a job interview? Thanks, you asked!
How we all hate and love these appointments at the same time. The interviewer quizzes you about your work history and experience, what you can do for their company, and if you’re worth their time. That’s intimidating and scary enough. But again, job interviews are a critical step to career growth and financial freedom.
While you may know your stuff cold, poor body language during an interview can compromise your efforts to create an excellent first impression of a competent candidate.
Enter sitting posture!
Not everyone is on the same page about how to sit during a job interview. It can communicate a bunch about you and goes beyond finding a comfortable chair!
This post will guide you through the correct sitting posture for a job interview. It could be what you need to keep from inadvertently offending your interviewer or mispresenting yourself as unprofessional, ultimately increasing the chances of landing your dream job.
Let’s start with the importance of sitting posture for a job interview.
Why How You Sit in an Interview Can Be Important
You want to sound intelligent and articulate during an interview, but did you know that the way you sit can be critical, too?
There is some science behind it! A Havard University study revealed the tangible impact of “power poses” on our confidence levels and performance in high-stakes social situations.
You are a reflection of your body language. It’s the first thing people notice about you, and it gives them clues about how honest and competent you are. Then, is it a wonder that most of our communication is non-verbal? No!
It’s not just important to be seen as a friendly, knowledgeable, and positive candidate for a job. You should also appear physically capable of doing the work required. Nothing conveys that better a healthy posture and having control over your body.
The first thing to consider is how comfortable you feel when seated. When nervous or anxious, your body will tense up, and your shoulders will be up around your ears. That can make you look dishonest or, even worse, scared of the interview questions.
If you’re relaxed, you’ll be at ease. That makes you appear more confident, motivated, and authoritative—all good qualities for a prospective employee to exhibit when meeting with their future boss.
The second thing to consider is where your feet are pointing: either towards or away from the interviewer. The former shows confidence and interest in the conversation. Pointing your legs away from the interviewer could suggest boredom or disinterest.
Thirdly, consider your arm’s position while seated during an interview. We’ll learn more about this and other paramount signals later. Let’s first answer a nagging question for young professionals:
When Should You Sit Down for an Interview?
“When should I sit down for an interview?”, you wonder. The answer is relatively straightforward—after your interviewer sits down or instructs you to.
Doing so keeps the interaction between you on equal footing and shows respect for the person interviewing you. It’s a simple rule that will earn you brownie points with interviewers every time.
So, avoid looking presumptuous—it doesn’t hurt to wait an extra second before taking your seat. And even if you break the rule, it’s not going to be the end of the world, right? But why take the chance?
However, it’s one thing to know when to sit and another to ace interview posture. Next, let’s learn how to sit during a job interview.
How to Sit During a Job Interview
Your interview body language doesn’t just reveal your level of confidence and self-assurance. It also makes a statement about your attitude toward the job in question.
You want to appear in control but not too relaxed. And while you should project confidence, you don’t want to seem like an arrogant jerk. It’s a fine line, and finding the right balance can be tricky.
Here’s how to position your sitting posture for interview success:
If you’re a man and have been on the job market for a while, you’re probably familiar with interview attire basics: no jeans, sneakers, or wrinkled shirts. But how should men sit during an interview?
First of all, don’t sit at the edge of your chair. This signals nervousness, associated with weakness in general. Take full coverage of your chair, instead.
Secondly, resist the urge to slouch. Slouching signals laziness and a careless attitude—both definite deal-breakers for recruiters and hiring managers.
Sit up straight with your arms resting on the table in front of them (or on the laps). That sends the message you’re open, stable, secure, and dependable.
An upright posture also helps you look taller. While height doesn’t matter during an interview (and shouldn’t be considered when hiring), anything that can help you look taller might boost your confidence enough to deliver yourself right.
Let your posture show off your best assets—your shoulders and chest in most cases. That means keeping your chin parallel to the floor and your back straight to push your shoulders slightly forward.
“Hand in pockets” is a defensive position that makes you look lost or unprepared. Neither should you cross your arms over your chest!
Leaning forward suggests interest and focus—and connection with the interviewer. But it can also indicate nervousness or pushiness if taken too far.
Mind your legs, too. You want to sit with your legs apart and feet planted flat on the floor. If there is a footrest, use it, provided it’s comfortable. Otherwise, cross your legs at the ankles.
Sitting with one leg or ankle over the other knee can feel relaxing. But it often signals aggression and dominance—certainly not the impression you want to make in a situation that demands some deference.
While crossing your legs at the knee might feel comfortable, it implies that you’re closed off to new ideas.
Keeping good eye contact speaks for itself—it communicates confidence and makes the interviewer feel engaged. How about a slight ego boost? Most people are comfortable making brief eye contact for 2-3 seconds before shifting their gaze elsewhere. So, be careful not to stare!
When you are prepping for your interview, practice how you’ll sit as well.
Women are expected to “act like a lady,” and nowhere is this more relevant than in the office. “A lady takes up as little space as possible,” they say.
The business world has yet to catch up to women’s progress in the workplace, which means you still have to “play by their rules” to get ahead. Consider also women have the added pressure of being judged on their appearance.
Whether in a chair or on a couch, keep your body language open and inviting. But more importantly, maintain an air of professionalism.
The safest bet? Sit with your legs together, feet on the floor, and hands in your lap. Take the whole seat and watch over your hand movements.
Please, avoid flipping your hair and other fidgety moves! It can be too nervous, flirtatious, or unprofessional for a job interview.
As with men, remember to smile, lean forward, and keep eye contact. But don’t overdo it!
Positive Body Language Messages You Can Send With How You Sit
I cannot overstate the criticality of demonstrating your enthusiasm during a job interview. And that, to some extent, demands positive non-verbal signals. Below are some positive body language messages communicated by your sitting position:
- You are confident
- You’re comfortable
- You’re alert and interested
Demonstrating confidence in a job interview indeed influences hiring decisions. In fact,40% of interviewers admit rejecting candidates based on their speech delivery and overall confidence, a Twin Employment & Training report revealed.
You’ll likely slouch or lean back in the chair when unsure of your capabilities or nervous about the interview. Someone confident about themselves and their skills will sit tall, with shoulders back and head up and looking forward instead of down or away from the interviewer/panel.
You should be relaxed and comfortable when answering interview questions — otherwise, how can you give an accurate representation of yourself?
If there are any uncomfortable feelings or emotions involved in the process (such as feeling judged), be assured it’ll show through your posture and facial expressions.
A proper sitting posture doesn’t just boost confidence and comfort level. It will also put your interviewer at ease and maximize your performance.
You’re alert and interested
You should be excited about meeting new people and learning more about their company.
A lack of interest will manifest through body language, such as slouching, crossing arms, leaning back, and lacking eye contact.
So, how do you demonstrate alertness and genuine interest? Sit forward in your seat, smile, maintain eye contact,
Should I Cross My Legs in an Interview?
Yes and no!
It’s often acceptable for men to cross their legs in an interview. Some caveats apply, though.
As for whether crossed knees are better than crossed ankles, according to the experts, ankles are way better. The position is less likely to twist your back out of alignment or cause muscle tension or cramping.
In addition, when you cross at the knee, the fabric on your pants is more likely to shift as you move around. That can be distracting.
Crossing at the ankle isn’t just a more professional posture. It also keeps you from having potentially distracting movements with your clothes.
Whether in a skirt, pants, or dress, women are more comfortable (and professional) with their legs together than crossed at the knees or thighs.
Of course, this isn’t a foolproof method for landing a job—but it could help you make a better impression on your interviewer!
What Do I Do With My Hands During an Interview?
It might seem like a trivial thing to mind, but believe me: your hand movements matter in a job interview. You can make all the right moves with your words, but if you’re inadvertently making the wrong ones with your hands, that could mean losing the job.
When we’re nervous, our hands are one of the first parts of our body to betray us. We try to hide them in our pockets, clutch a pen or purse tightly, and they start to shake soon after we get in front of someone holding our future in their hands.
Please don’t sit on your hands or let them hang down. Having them resting somewhere gives you the illusion of being relaxed while still keeping them out of trouble. And what a better spot than on the table or your lap!
But don’t put your hands so far forward on the table that you’re leaning over your interviewer. It could imply aggression.
It might feel like a natural impulse to fix our hair or adjust our glasses with our fingers during high-stress situations. But that’s a major turnoff for interviewers as it subconsciously signals nervousness.
So, how do you fix fidgetiness during a job interview? Bring one hand to the table or into your lap and use the other hand to take notes or refer to a document. They’re simple fixes that will give your fidgety hand something productive to do.
Try not to cross your arms across your chest—it can come off as defensive and unapproachable.
Lastly, hand gestures can add emphasis and help illustrate your points. But using too many of them simultaneously or flying your hands around often communicates nervousness.
Should I Mirror the Interviewer?
Ever been advised to mirror the interviewer’s body language? This advice has led to more stress and anxiety than necessary for some people.
So what is mirroring, anyway? And is it worth your time and attention?
Mirroring involves subtly reflecting the body language of your interviewer. It can be as simple as copying their posture, gestures, or speech patterns.
While mirroring seems unnatural at first, I’ve seen it work wonders. When done right, it can be an effective strategy for building rapport. It’s essentially a subconscious way of saying to the other person, “I’m just like you!”
And statistics back up this.
A 2011 study by French researchers found that sales representatives who mimicked customers’ behavior had more successful sales experiences and left customers with a more impression of the store.
Note that mirroring works only with positive body language. So don’t follow suit if your interviewer slouch, crosses their legs, scratches their nose, or looks at the floor.
In addition, be careful not to go overboard. You don’t want it to become so noticeable that it starts feeling forced and detracts from the actual conversation. Think of it as an easy way to connect with another person faster.
You want to put your best foot forward during an interview. But as you’ve already learned, there’s much more to interview success than dressing the part and answering questions right.
Mastering how to sit during a job interview isn’t just common sense. It’s also good interview etiquette!
So, do yourself a favor and remember to sit up straight, keep your chin parallel to the ground and control your hand and leg movements. Still, don’t forget to smile and throw periodic glances at the interviewer! The extra effort with good body language is worth it for first impressions and a smooth conversation!
New to the job market? Polish up your interview preparation with these guidelines: How to Prepare for a Job Interview Without Experience [5 Steps].