Confession: Body language first became an interest of mine through reading teen magazines as I was growing up, and, I’m sure to no one's surprise, it was more focused on romance. Of course, that helped me navigate the dating world, but as I grew older, I realized body language mattered just as much in professional settings as personal ones. In fact, part of the curriculum for my college communications class, focused on this exact topic.
Yeah; I didn’t either until I started looking into the topic of body language more deeply post-grad. That’s when I quickly realized the writers in the magazines I perused, my professors, and various online authors were really onto something. It took me a little longer than I’d like to admit, but after hearing so much about it in my everyday life, I started paying closer attention to this topic, and with good reason!
Body language can unintentionally speak volumes about your confidence, interest, and overall competence — and in a professional setting, these can be make or break you. Take this as your wake-up call to reassess how you handle everyday situations and get a better understanding on the signals you’re sending out. For the purpose of this post, let’s focus on how seven body language mistakes can IMPACT (pun intended) your next job interview (virtual or in person) as outlined by Stride Financial:
Do not - and I repeat, do not - consistently look down at your shoes, look around the room, or look up at the ceiling when you’re in a job interview.
You may think that maintaining eye contact feels aggressive (or even awkward) but I’m telling you right now, it’s not. Well, it’s not as long as you’re acting natural - if you don’t blink and you don’t break contact at all, it can come across as a bit creepy.
Maintaining proper eye contact is a sign of respect and confidence. No matter how confident you are, not looking someone in the eye can make it look as though you’re as insecure.
Even more so, it can come across as being untrustworthy, and he last thing you want to convey to a potential employee during an interview is that they can’t trust you. Yikes!
Believe me, I know interviewing for a dream job can make you feel like your stomach is filled with butterflies but you’ve got to push back on that and let your confidence shine through.
Think of it this way --You wouldn’t be in the interview if they didn’t already think you’ve got what it takes. Here are some quick rules for maintaining proper eye contact from The Shyness & Social Anxiety Guy:
When talking, make eye contact ⅓ of the time
When listening, make eye contact ⅔ of the time
For everyday conversation, make eye contact in spurts of 3-4 seconds.
Lastly, here’s a great way to practice maintaining the proper amount of eye contact because the more you practice outside of interviews, the better you’ll do during the interview: Ask a friend to help you out. The next time you see them, ask them to raise their hand during conversation and once you’ve maintained eye contact with them for four seconds, they can put their hand down. When they feel like you’re looking down or around the room too much, have them repeat this step and raise their hand again. This will help you see how long this timeframe is in real life and how often you may look away.
If that’s not scary enough,over 500 hiring managers surveyed by Adecco USA, a workforce solutions company, said of the candidates they've rejected, over one-fifth of them were fidgeters, which to them outweighed a lack of confidence and a lack of preparation for the interview. But, don’t you dare take your fidget spinner into your next interview! Instead, there are better (*cough cough* more professional ways *cough cough*) of decreasing the amount you touch your hair, tap your feet, and so on. A great way to do this is to keep your hands hidden away in your lap. This lessens the chance that you pull a Ricky Bobby and do something awkward with them. Plus, if you tend to tap your toes or shake your legs when you get nervous, by having your hands on your lap, you can apply a bit of pressure to your legs to help remind you to keep them still.
3. Not smiling in an interview
I know they say a picture is worth a thousand words but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t think a smile is worth more. A smile can do so much to help put others at ease and convey a sense of calm and control, and put simply, a smile is the universal sign of confidence and approachability. 39% of interviewers are put off by candidates who don’t smile. So, before running into an interview, make sure your teeth are ready to go and by that, I mean that there isn’t any food stuck between them or if you’ve consumed coffee that morning then brush them quickly. If you’re not a smiley person or if you want to make sure that you’re relaxed enough to make it happen in interviews, there are some things you can do to prepare:
Practice answering interview questions in front of a mirror. This will help show you what your facial expressions look like ahead of time, or, if you want to really prepare, ask a friend to ask you random interview questions while you’re standing in front of a mirror - when you don’t know what’s about to be asked of you, you’re able to prepare better for tackling whatever is thrown at you without putting on a look of confusion. Relax. I know, I know. Easier said than done but on the way to your next job interview, put on you favorite song and rock out to it. Get wild and crazy - dance in your seat, belt the lyrics at the top of your lungs, whatever you need to relax and pump up the mood.
4. A weak handshake
Now, in a COVID-19 world, this one may not come into play for a while, but when we do get back to a normal, a weak handshake can be a missed opportunity to make a strong first impression with a potential employer or a hiring manager. Plus, it’s one of my personal pet peeves. A handshake that falls flat (aka feels like a limp spaghetti noodle) can turn someone off quickly and, even worse, convey that you’re less impressive, comfortable, or enthusiastic. And I’m not the only one who thinks this is cause for concern.A study led by scientists at the University of Illinois found that handshaking activates the neutral circuits inside our brains, encouraging positive feelings of competence and trustworthiness. Careful of overcompensating, though by grasping the interviewer’s hand in a death grip or by shaking hands with men and women differently. Everyone you meet deserves a good shake. A good rule of thumb is to have your handshake to be firm and palm-to-palm. To make it even more memorable (in a good way) say something casual along the lines of, “It’s really great to finally meet you in person” or “I’m looking forward to speaking today.” The combination of a firm handshake, a friendly greeting and a wide, confident smile can start the interview off on the right track.
5. Bad posture
I’ll admit it; In my everyday life, posture is something I struggle with. I like to blame it on being hunched over a computer day in and day out, but if I’m being honest with myself, that’s just a bad excuse. Just as not making eye contact is a sign of low confidence or disinterest, so is slouching. It conveys that you’re not as prepared, experienced, or enthusiastic about the job opportunity in front of you, which can be a giant, bright red flag for the person who is interviewing you. Instead of hunching over, do this:
Plant your feet firmly on the floor
Push your hips back into the chair
Straighten your back
Relax your shoulders
Put your hands in your lap
These simple steps will help ensure you’re not looking like Quasimodo’s twin.
6. Crossing your arms
No. No, no. Never cross your arms when you’re in a job interview. This gives the impression that you’re defensive, uncomfortable, and insecure. All of these things are the exact opposite of what you’d like to (and what you should) be conveying) in a job interview. Some of the other tips and tricks shared in this article will help combat the need you may have to cross your arms during the conversation. For example, by keeping your hands in your lap or even by your side, you consciously keep them in check. However, if you find yourself wanting to do this move, or if you caught yourself doing it, carefully put them back down on your lap and apply pressure to your legs. Again, this will help you keep your legs from fidgeting but may also stop you from crossing those arms of yours.
7. Nodding vigorously or in an exaggerated way
Contrary to what you you may think, nodding excessively in an interview can make you seem like you don’t fully understand something or that you’re not really listening to what the interviewer is saying. Yikes! This is obviously bad body language that you should definitely stay away from if you want to be taken seriously as a confident, experienced candidate. Instead of looking like a bobble head, when you agree with something the hiring manager or interview is saying, smile and nod but do it sparingly. If you find yourself nodding when you don’t truly understand the conversation or what the interviewer is saying, stop and ask instead. By asking the interviewer to clarify what they mean, you show that you’re paying attention, are engaged, and you are honestly interested in ensuring you understand the conversation 110%.
I know there’s a lot to remember here but the moral of the story is the more you practice positive, confident body language, the more you’ll take it into your everyday life. As you’ve read above, great body language helps when it comes to interviewing but guess what? It will help you also convey the right messages to family, friends, peers, and maybe even during a few dates too. While your qualifications and experience will land you the job, these tips will certainly ensure you leave the right impression non-verbally as well. For further insight into these 7 body language mistakes, check out this infographic from On Stride Financial that was shared on the HubSpot blog: