A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Body Language in a Job Interview
Dear Sue: I was interviewing at a financial firm and had a
series of interviews among different areas of the firm. The Director of
Human Resources was the third person that I would meet with.
I was very appropriately dressed in a black suit with a white top; the
skirt came a little below the knee. The interview took place in a
conference room. I was placed at the head of the conference table and the
director sat to my left. I turned my body slightly towards the left so I
would have better eye contact. I crossed my legs at the knee and folded my
hands on my lap. In the middle of the interview he said, "You know that it
is not proper etiquette to cross your legs in an interview." Now, I agree
that it may have been better to have my knees and ankles locked together
and tucked under my chair. However, was it more inappropriate for him to
make this comment in the middle of the interview? And, is it
"inappropriate" for a woman to cross her legs during an interview?
Sue Says: Body language plays an important role in an interview;
what we communicate nonverbally (through our bodies) is a language more
honest than our spoken words. People who are adept at interviewing have
learned to pay attention to any and all nonverbal cues they pick up on in
an interview as a means of ‘reading’ people more accurately. Some
nonverbal behaviors are obvious, while others are not. Most people realize
that making eye contact when talking with someone is important, and that
the lack of eye contact suggests anything from shyness and insecurity to
the inability to tell the truth. There are other, more subtle actions that
are just as revealing. For example, rubbing the nose or covering the mouth
when talking often happens when someone is uncomfortable, hiding something
or telling a lie.
Crossing the legs is a means of comfort for many people, and often
essential for women when wearing a skirt. It can, however, have hidden,
unspoken intentions and be viewed as flirtatious or flaunting (especially
if a lot of leg is exposed). Although the most proper way for a woman to
cross her legs is at the ankles, many women cross them at the knee.
Typically, what is noticed in an interview is not mentioned, and it is
unusual that this was brought up to you. Either he relished in the
opportunity to make you a bit self-conscious or honestly felt he was
offering you some helpful advice. As common as leg crossing is, it should
be much less of a red flag than many other actions or movements.
Chances are that the person you interviewed with has made it a point to
look for ‘signs’ that will help him ‘read’ people more effectively.
Whatever his intentions, he has done you a favor; crossing your legs is
not good for you because it decreases the circulation in your legs.
Dear Sue: Is it appropriate to write a thank-you note to your
boss for giving you a good review?
Sue Says: I think that anytime you can show gratitude and
sincere appreciation, you should. Recapping your goals, what you were able
to take away from the review and your next steps will be reassuring to
your boss. Knowing that you are pleased should please your boss as well.
It may not be common practice, but I am sure you letter of appreciation
will be appreciated! Go for it!
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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