Interview Tips: The Hands Have It

There are several ways to detect when someone is nervous during a job interview. Darting eyes, a sweaty brow and fumbling over words are good indicators. According to John B. Molidor, Ph.D., co-author of Crazy Good Interviewing and Professor of Psychiatry at Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine, the hands have a great deal to say. Before your next round of interviews, be sure to do a hand check.

  • Make an effort to gesture thoughtfully. Your hand motions should reinforce your answers, says Molidor. For instance, holding up three fingers when saying, "I could bring the following three skills to this position..." makes your explanation visual, allowing the interviewer to "see" your qualifications. He also points out the necessity to "hold your gesture" (pausing for several seconds) because it exudes confidence and signals to the interviewer that you are in control. Lastly, he advises interviewees to have a starting point where their hands can comfortably rest.

  • Show your palms. This gesture has been used for centuries to communicate that someone was not carrying a weapon. Even though we are not living in the Wild West, the original meaning still holds true. Speaking with open palms helps to establish trust and sends a message of sincerity. It lets the interviewer know that you have nothing to hide, says Dr. Molidor.
  • A "steeple" stands tall. Dr. Molidor points out that resting the fingers of each hand against each other, forming a steeple, "shows you are comfortable with what you are saying" and allows your statements "to take on a thoughtful quality." He cautions interviewees to keep the gesture steady so as to not distract the interviewer. The initial display of confidence can be lost once you start twisting your fingers during the interview.
  • Anchor your movements. Meaningful gestures are ones that are strategic and sustained, explains Dr. Molidor. Rather than raising your hands quickly up and down, your motions should align with the points you are making. For example, when discussing your goals, holding your hand and arm confidently forward, then moving it outward to present your short, mid and long-term aspirations (again, holding the gesture for a few seconds) adds substance and makes it easier for the interviewer to follow your thoughts.
  • At all costs avoid concealing your hands or going on "lock down" which says you are afraid or unprepared. Dr. Molidor states the amount of space a person utilizes when talking with others shows their level of power. Keeping your hands planted flat on the table, palms down for an extended period of time, or failing to let go of the armrest of a chair shows your insecurity and can keep you from getting the job. If you have the tendency to freeze up during an interview, it is important to practice "open" gestures that are genuine rather than forced.
  • Three plus one is the name of the game. When the interviewer is asking you about your skills, give them three and then one more. Using your fingers, palm facing out, count off your strong attributes. Then add one final point that ties everything together and underscores the value you would bring to the job position.
  • So it comes down to this: if you want to make a good impression on the hiring manager, strengthen your impact with non-distracting gestures, and don't be afraid to drive home your point with your hands.

    You may also find Diane's Job Interview Etiquette: Tips for Making a Great First Impression helpful. Visit her blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, follow her on Pinterest and Instagram and "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook.