Five Body Language Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Job Interview

It’s the big interview for your dream job and you’re excited to demonstrate your qualifications. But is your body language sending the opposite message? Communication success hinges on our spoken and unspoken language. In fact, 93 percent of what we convey to others is through non-verbal cues (55%) and tone of voice (33%), not words. Even if you think you're coming off as confident and capable in your answers, your body language could be sending a different message.

Of course, nothing happens in isolation. Our brains look for clusters of non-verbal communication cues to interpret. For example, one of the biggest body language blunders is crossing your arms during an interview. Doing so can make you appear closed off and insecure. But if your shoulders are also raised and your teeth are chattering, our brains process a different message: you're just cold!

Understanding how our brains process non-verbal cues is important for mastering interview body language basics. A single gesture won't sink your job chances but a pattern of behavior throughout the interview - constant fidgeting, failure to make eye contact, and crossing your arms - can put your candidacy on ice. Bringing awareness to your default body language habits can help improve your communication skills during interviews and across your professional life.

Interview Body Language Mistakes

Mistake 1: Failing to make eye contact. Making good eye contact is important during an interview - it's a sign of active listening - but how do you strike a balance between staring down at the floor and staring straight at your interviewer? One trick is to look at the interviewer's eyes just long enough to register their color before glancing away. Another trick is to draw an imaginary inverted triangle between the eyes and mouth, changing your gaze every 5 to 10 seconds between one of these three points.

Mistake 2: Fidgeting. Playing with your hair, tapping your feet, or cracking your knuckles are all non-verbal habits that can seem benign in our daily lives but become a major distraction during an interview. During your interview prep, ask a friend to note when and how you fidget. Do you subconsciously exhibit these behaviors when faced with a difficult question? Recognizing subconscious patterns can help you discontinue the distracting behavior.

Mistake 3: Crossing your arms. Crossing your arms or legs sends a message that you're closed off, reserved or insecure. Project confidence by keeping your arms uncrossed, angling your body towards your interviewer and occasionally nodding while they speak. When it's your turn to talk, fold your hands one on top of the other or gently rest them in your lap.

Mistake 4: Hunching over the table. Pulling your shoulders all the way up to your ears - especially in conjunction with crossed arms - conveys anxiety and nervousness. Practice good posture: sit up straight and keep your shoulders relaxed. Project confidence by keeping your body open, nodding as an interviewer speaks, and smiling when it is your turn to speak.

Mistake 5: Failing to mirror. Like the name implies, mirroring is when your body gestures and posture mimic an interviewer. Natural mirroring subconsciously signals engagement and interest. For example, if an interviewer gestures with her hands, you should feel free to do the same, as long as you keep these movements controlled- no flapping arms!

Non-Verbal Communication in Video Interviews

The above body language basics are critical rules for in-person interviews, but what about video interviews? As virtual interviews increasingly become the first round in a formal interview process, body language needs to be adjusted accordingly. The most important rule is to alternate eye contact with the camera and video screen. Remember, you may be looking directly at someone on the screen, but since you are not looking into your computer's camera it will appear as if you're looking down at the ground. This signals disinterest and a lack of engagement, the exact opposite message you're trying to send. If possible, do a mock virtual interview with a friend and record it so you can spot any body language issues or posture mistakes. Speak in a calm, professional manner, keep your hands folded in your lap and maintain eye contact with the camera- you’ll be well on your way to acing the virtual interview.


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