What the US presidential candidates teach us about body language
The 2016 US presidential campaign is being called the nastiest in the country’s history, with name calling, assault allegations, WikiLeaks exposés, and 3am Twitter tirades. It can, however, also offer some important lessons for job seekers, particularly when it comes to the topic of body language. More specifically, what your body language communicates during an interview.
Mark Bowden, a world-renowned expert in body language, and the founder of Truthplane, took some time to talk with us about the good and bad cues demonstrated by both the Republican and Democrat candidates. Both candidates offer examples that you could adopt to great benefit – but there are also some things you should avoid.
Here’s what the US presidential candidates teach us about body language.
Hillary Clinton’s body language
When we look at Hillary Clinton, the most significant body language cue we can take away is a fairly obvious one: she smiles a lot. A sincere smile radiates warmth and signals that you’re a calm and collected person who’s pleasant to be around. These are, of course, qualities that you would want to see in an interviewee. Clinton’s smile is very practiced because she knows how powerful a genuine smile can be, and how essential it is to winning over public support.
“In a job situation, on the whole, people want to be around others who are going to be OK, especially under pressure,” says Bowden. “Under the pressure of an interview, if you can keep something of a smile for some of the time, it can certainly go better for you.”
Another important point Bowden brings to light is that she’s relatively still when she speaks. Stillness supports an air of calmness and stability, but it’s important not to be so still that you’re rigid. Clinton appears pleasant and calm, but also assertive, and these are all traits that can work out well in a job interview.
“Nobody ever really said, ‘We can’t employ them. They’re just too calm and assertive,’” says Bowden.
Donald Trump’s body language
No matter what you think about Trump, you can’t deny that he’s passionate. His body language reflects this when his hands come up to his chest area and he starts gesturing from there. Trump can seem aggressive at times, but what some people see as aggression, others see as passion.
“We hear all the time that being passionate in an interview, getting your point across like you mean it, is important. Certainly that’s what Trump does,” says Bowden.
Another good takeaway from Trump is that he’s consistent. He has a variety of gestures that he uses often and comes back to time and again. You’ve probably noticed this if you’ve seen any of his speeches or debates.
When he feels passionate about his message, he uses a lot of striking and chopping motions. He also uses the OK-L hand gesture a great deal (that’s when you make an OK symbol with your hand and then change it to an L).
These gestures in themselves aren’t necessarily ones you want to use in a job interview, but Trump’s consistency in using them is a positive trait.
“Consistency in your body language is one of the great keys to being seen as employable; this idea of passion and consistency,” says Bowden. “The alternative is, ‘they were inconsistent and they had no passion,’ and that’s a downside. Whoever didn’t get employed because they were too consistent?”
What to avoid
Both candidates have exhibited displays of territorial aggression, particularly in the second presidential debate, and this is a big no-no in a job interview for obvious reasons. At the debate we saw Clinton moving into Trump’s area, walking across the stage and getting closer to him. Trump responded to this by looming over her menacingly and looking down at her. Clinton was doing this to ruffle his feathers, and it worked. Obviously, you don’t want to get on your interviewers bad side if you’re serious about getting the job.
The power of the open palm
Clinton also uses a lot of open palm gestures when she speaks. These signal honesty, especially when the hands are around the naval area, an area which Bowden calls the “truth plane.” If you raise your hands higher up to the chest area it denotes greater passion and emphasis. Trump also shows open palms during some of his speeches.
“Open palm gestures will play very positively in an interview, and anywhere on the planet really,” says Bowden. “Open palm gestures, especially at navel height, will show you as calm, assertive, honest, credible, and truthful.”
Next time you go into a job interview, try to remember how Trump and Clinton us these body language cues, and it just might give you an edge on the competition. Just remember not to be overly aggressive!