Check out this article on CareerBuilder, “What Your Body Language Says About You.” It’s a very basic article discussing how your body language represents you to others.
Though it attempts to look to the positive (i.e. if you cross your arms over your body in a defensive gesture then you of course must be better suited to a job in the insurance industry for some reason), I think it’s more important that you become self aware of these habits. Do you habitually stand with your arms crossed over your body? Often people with have some of these habits and not even realize it.
If you’re in the middle of your job search, NOW is a good time to have someone close to you tell you the truth about how your body language is perceived by others. Ask a close friend who will tell you the truth and not sugarcoat it.
If you’re still not sure, stage a mock interview, complete with an “interviewer” sitting on one side of the desk and you on the other. Setting up a video camera is a great tool so that you can view yourself later. Your interviewer can pose all sorts of questions – from the difficult to possibly annoying and back to the basic questions. When you watch the tape, don’t listen to your verbal responses. Instead, watch closely to your physical responses.
Are your hands clenched and arms tight? Are you crossing your arms across your body when they question why you left your last position a little to forcefully? Do you constantly change the crossing of your legs, or do you tap the armrest constantly? Now is the time to be brutal with yourself.
Now, how do you stop these habits? The first step is to be conscious of them, then make a decision beforehand of what you will do when you notice you start your habit again in an interview situation, and finally practice it! If you seem to slouch and spread your legs out in an interview, you’re probably getting a little too “relaxed.” Practice finding a sitting position that is comfortable, but still shows that you are alert and attentive to the interviewer.
However, you don’t want to go the totally opposite direction! Being completely wound up, and “tight” will be perceived as you being uncomfortable, unconfident, and not wanting to be there! So you need to find a happy medium between the two. Practicing in front of a video camera or a mirror is the only way to do this.
Also, as an aside, I really recommend yoga for a long-term solution. Not only is it good exercise, for me it has been great for posture, strength, and flexibility. I also find it good for focus and for clearing the stress of the day out of your mind. You can’t worry about how you’re going to pay that credit card bill while you’re in the middle of downward dog.