Help for Ex-offenders looking for Jobs: Body Language

When looking for a job, just as important as the words we use is the message that our bodies are sending.

The person that shows that he not only has the skills to get the job done, but can fit in with the people that are already there and presents a positive attitude will get the job. You must understand that companies do not hire people. People hire people. The person that hires you must like you as a person. I’m not saying that if the interviewer likes you, you will get the job. I am saying if he doesn’t like you, you have no chance. Remember, you have a criminal record. Being friendly will make the interviewer focus on your charm instead of your record! You must be confident, friendly and likeable to get the job.

Your answers to questions are only part of what the interviewer is paying attention to. Your body language will tell more about you than what you say. Pay attention to the message that your body is sending.


Smiling is your most powerful body language tool. For many former inmates smiling is difficult. Some believe that smiling or other forms of kindness are signs of weakness. You must get rid of that attitude if you are serious about finding a job. A bright smile will open doors for you. When we smile at others it sends a message of trust and sincerity. Others feel safe and relax around those whose smiles are warm and genuine. I’ve heard things like “I don’t like to smile” or “I have nothing to smile about.” That type of attitude will keep you unemployed. If you do not smile easily, I suggest you practice until it comes naturally to you.


Your posture will make you look confident and professional. When you stand and walk, make sure that your back is straight, your shoulders are back, and your chin is up. When sitting, make sure your feet are flat on the floor, your back is straight, and your hands are on your lap. If you have a portfolio or notepad, hold it on your lap. Never fold your arms across your chest. It sends a message that you are defensive. Keeping your hands on your lap will keep you from doing annoying things with your hands. When the interviewer speaks, lean forward occasionally to show that you are interested.

Eye Contact

Maintaining positive eye contact is important if you want to send a message that you are honest and sincere. Those who have difficulty making eye contact when speaking or when spoken to make people uncomfortable and appear untrustworthy.

If you have trouble looking people in the eye, try looking at the bridge of the other person’s nose. It will have the same effect. Eye contact is very important in establishing trust, but do not stare. It is o.k. to occasionally look away, just be sure that you have that all important eye contact when either one of you are speaking.


An interviewer’s first impression of you is often formed when you shake hands. A firm handshake communicates self confidence so you always want to offer your hand when meeting people. This applies to men and women. Always wait for the interviewer to offer his or her hand first.

When shaking hands, be sure to meet the interviewer with a firm grip. A grip that is limp or weak leaves an impression of a weak character. A grip that is too strong says that the person is insecure and has something to prove. If your palms sweat, wipe them off before shaking hands.

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