The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Body Mistakes During Your Interview
Now matter how hard you work towards getting the job for which you yearn, treat the interview stage as a mere formality and you are likely to sabotage your chances of making the grade. The interview process can be an absurd kind of trial to have when everything else is in place: a fifteen minute Q&A with a bunch of strangers is most likely not reflective of what you’ll actually have to do if you get the position. But that’s the way things are done, and not for entirely terrible reasons: your potential employees want to know that you are what you say you are, and that your character and attitude will fit in well in the workplace.
That said, what can you do to capitalize on the swell application that got you this far? Two words: body language! When put in a nerve-wracking situation, our bodies seem to acquire a life of their own. Your posture may sink, you may find it difficult to speak up or to make eye contact, and heaven knows forcing a smile can make you feel like a phoney. This is why it’s important to prepare and rehearse before the big day. Find a friend, and give them a list of questions to ask you. Practice meeting them, and shake their hand firmly. Maintain eye contact, keep your arms unfolded, and sit up straight with your shoulders back.
And as for that smile – it’s much easier to be warm and genuine when you’re in the right place emotionally. Do something fun and relaxing before you go in, and practice smiling in the bathroom in those final moments: science actually tells us that this can cheer us up. If your eye contact is on-game, hopefully you’ll uncover some of that human warmth that can make an interrogation into a productive chat.
For a step-by-step guide on how to avoid sabotaging your next job interview, check out this new infographic. You know you can talk the talk – now make sure to walk the walk!
Click to open / Right-click for save options
7 BODY LANGUAGE Interview Mistakes
(AND HOW TO AVOID THEM)
Did you know your body expresses emotion too? Pay attention to your body language and you might just ace your next interview.
The power of body language
Employer surveys conducted by Career Builder and Adecco suggest that every little thing you’re doing with your eyes, hands, and body during an interview could send out signals about you that you’re completely unaware of.
- 67% OF HIRING MANAGERS CITE LACK OF EYE CONTACT AS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE CANDIDATES MAKE
- 26% OF APPLICANTS IN AN INTERVIEW GET REJECTED BECAUSE THEY FIDGET TOO MUCH
- 21% OF INTERVIEWERS WILL REJECT CANDIDATES WHO GIVE A WEAK HANDSHAKE
- 39% OF INTERVIEWERS ARE PUT OFF IF A CANDIDATE FAILS TO SMILE
The most common interview mistakes
Once you’re aware of your body language you can take steps to avoid making these key interview mistakes in your next interview.
1. NO EYE CONTACT
A study of eye contact avoidance led by the New York state Psychiatric Institute suggests that eye contact can trigger feelings of being scrutinized, causing us to feel self-conscious and look away.
What’s the problem? Lack of eye contact can make you seem untrustworthy and insecure.
How to avoid: Practice with a friend to make yourself feel more comfortable using eye contact.
Research from the University of Hertfordshire shows that fidgeting lowers the stress hormone cortisol, so it’s typical that we do it during interviews.
What’s the problem? Playing with your hair, touching your face, or other fidgeting habits sends the interview a message that you’re under confident and haven’t prepped well.
How to avoid: Cross your hands in front of you whilst you’re not talking, but don’t stay rigid.
3. NOT SMILING
A scientific study from Uppsala University in Sweden suggests that seeing somebody smile stimulates our brains’ mirror neurons, inducing a smile in response and creating a mutually positive experience.
What’s the problem? If you fail to smile your interviewer will perceive you to be unhappy or unfriendly.
How to avoid: Force yourself to smile repeatedly in the run-up to your interview; it can help reduce your anxiety and lower your blood pressure.
4. WEAK HANDSHAKE
A study led by scientists at the University of Illinois found that handshaking activates the neural circuits inside our brains, encouraging positive feelings of competence and trustworthiness.
What’s the problem? Candidates who begin job interviews with a limp handshake are deemed less impressive, trustworthy, and enthusiastic than those with a strong handshake.
How to avoid: Practice shaking hands with a friend. Use a complete grip, a firm squeeze, and three shakes while making eye contact.
A psychological study on posture by scientists at Northwestern University suggests that slouching is a byproduct of low self-confidence, and that adopting a more powerful, upright posture can boost confidence.
What’s the problem? Interviewers may take your slouching as a sign of low confidence, potentially causing them to question your ability to take on the role effectively.
How to avoid: Plant your feet firmly on the floor, push your hips back in the chair, straighten your back and rest one arm on the arm of the chair.
6. CROSS ARMS
Speaking to Psychology Today, Joe Navarro – body language expert – interprets arm folding as an attempt to deal with anxiousness or psychological distress.
What’s the problem? Having your arms folded across your chest can give the interviewer the impression you are insecure, defensive, and uncomfortable in their presence.
How to avoid: Make a conscious effort to keep your arms apart. Place one hand in your lap and rest the other on the table, keeping them ready to gesture naturally.
7. EXAGGERATED NODDING
Emotional intelligence expert, Dr. Travis Bradberry, wrote that exaggerated nodding indicates an anxiety about approval, so it’s not surprising we tend to do this during interviews.
What’s the problem? Nodding excessively in an interview can make you seem like you don’t fully understand something or that you’re not really listening.
How to avoid: Limit and control nodding to once or twice whenever relevant to the conversation, but if you’re unsure about what has been said, ask rather than nod.
How to make a good impression
So what should we be doing instead? Here are four simple yet effective interview body language moves that will make a big difference.
KEEP YOUR POSTURE TALL WHEN ENTERING THE INTERVIEW ROOM.
This helps to communicate confidence, which will help them trust that you can take on the task of the job.
MIRROR YOUR INTERVIEWER.
Mirroring plays a key role in building bonds with others. Reflect the emotions you see. For example, if they are telling you something they are excited about, show enthusiasm with your body language.
SHOW YOU’RE LISTENING.
Lean in, maintain natural eye contact, and verbally summarize what your interviewer says from time to time, to ensure you understand what they are telling you.
LEAVE A POSITIVE IMPRESSION.
Gather your belongings calmly and don’t rush out of the room. Shake everyone’s hand, say thank you, and smile on your way out.
Next time you find yourself at an interview, don’t panic!
Just remember the 3 s’s: sit up, smile, and shake hands, to give the best first impression.
About the Author
G. John Cole (https://www.linkedin.com/in/gjohncole)
John is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.