10 Body Language Mistakes That Sabotage Job Interviews

By Paul Michael, Wise Bread on 28 September 2018 0 comments
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10 Body Language Mistakes That Sabotage Job Interviews

How much of what you say is actually interpreted through body language and tone of voice? Well, if we are to believe Professor Albert Mehrabian, almost all of it. Mehrabian has stated that only 7 percent of a message is conveyed verbally, through words. The other 93 percent is split between tone of voice (38 percent) and body language (55 percent). In fact, it's widely known as the 7-38-55 rule.

Tone of voice and body language can betray our real feelings. And in a job interview, it's important to take control of your body language as much as possible. After all, even though you may say all the right things, your body can be telling the interviewer a completely different story. Here are 10 body language mistakes to avoid.

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1. Making a feeble first impression

It's been said that employers can spot the right candidate within 30 seconds, and that's all about body language. Be confident, but not arrogant. Walk in with a smile and give a firm handshake. Firm, by the way, means just that; enough pressure to say you mean business, but not the Vulcan death grip that so many men (and some women) try and impose. Also, a floppy "dead fish" handshake is just as bad, if not worse. And if you're sweating from nerves (or something else), wipe your hands before entering the room. That sweaty palm will not do you any favors.

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2. Touching your face

While you can't stop yourself from touching your face all the time, you must stop during the interview. We're all guilty of touching our nose, our lips, and our forehead, but these all imply that we're either nervous or dishonest. Also, remember that you're going to shake hands again at the end of the interview. Any germaphobes will not be pleased that you've had your hands on your mouth and nose for the last half hour.

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3. The leg wobble

Look around and see how often you spot the leg wobble. It comes in many forms. Some people will be seated at a table and will jiggle one leg up and down. Some will cross their legs and jiggle one foot. And some will have both legs going at once. It can be due to nervous energy, restless leg syndrome, or just out of habit. But whether you do it a little or a lot, do not do it in a job interview. The message you're sending is loud and clear — "I'm anxious, and I can't wait to get out of here." A potential employer does not want to know that you can't wait to be out of his or her presence.

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4. Crossing your arms

When you cross your arms, you're saying that you're closed off, defensive, or just plain bored. It doesn't matter if you find it the most comfortable way to hold your arms; this is an interview, and it's not a good idea to practice famously negative body language in front of a potential employer.

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5. Slouching or sitting up too straight

Have you ever been sitting across someone who sat up so straight that you just couldn't relax around them? It's a strange feeling. They're not really doing anything wrong; in fact, they're displaying good posture, but at the same time it just seems like they're being stiff and prudish. You don't want to seem this way in front of the interviewer, and you also don't want to make them feel uncomfortable around you, either. After all, who wants to work with someone who makes them feel awkward? So relax. Sit up straight, but not so straight it looks like you're craning your neck to the ceiling. And of course, don't be so relaxed that you slouch. This looks messy, disrespectful, and lazy.

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6. Carrying too many things

You may have your hands full when you enter the room. This can be unavoidable, especially when going from one interview to another. If you can, go to the interview with everything you need in one suitcase or bag. When you're called into the interview, rise gracefully and pick it up from the side of your chair, then set it down beside you. If you're playing a balancing act with pens, organizers, your phone, resumes, and other items, you look ill-at-ease, clumsy, and unprepared. And if you start dropping things, you make it even worse.

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7. Staring

In a job interview, it's important to maintain eye contact. But do this too much and you'll be staring down the interviewer with a gaze that will probably freak them out. As with all things in life, moderation is key. You don't want to have your eyes wandering the room looking for an exit, but you also don't want to stare into the interviewer's soul.

Janine Driver, a body language expert with the nickname "the lyin' tamer," suggests that 60 percent eye contact is ideal, looking at the upper triangle of the other person's face (this goes from the left to right eyebrow, crossing the bridge of the nose). If there's more than one person in the room, make eye contact with each person. And don't stare at the mouth or forehead. In fact, don't stare, period. Remember to blink!

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8. Talking with your hands

If you're following rule number four and rule number two, you may be wondering what on earth to do with your hands. This can be especially true if you're someone who uses his or her hands a lot when talking, to express enthusiasm or to convey a point. Well, that's fine. After all, if it helps you elaborate on what you're saying, and it's also a part of who you actually are, then don't mess with a good thing. But be careful.

Mark Bowden, author of the book Winning Body Language, suggests keeping your hands and arms in the "truth plane." Ideally, this is an area that fans out 180 degrees from your navel. Keeping gestures within this area keeps your hands away from your face, as noted earlier, and shows that you are calm, centered, and controlled. So, by all means use your hands, but don't go mad.

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9. Nodding too much

People often believe that nodding in agreement at everything the interviewer says will work in their favor. That's not actually the case. While it's all well and good to nod in agreement when you do genuinely agree with something, you need to avoid the "nodding dog syndrome." Nodding in agreement with everything, regardless of the message, makes you look somewhat sycophantic, perhaps even spineless.

Even worse, if you're not paying attention and then get asked a question related to the issue you were nodding about, you could look like a fool. Keep the nodding under control, as well as shaking your head in disagreement.

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10. Keeping your distance, or getting too close

In most interviews, you'll be sitting on one side of a desk with the interviewer on the other. This is standard practice, but with body language, you can change this dynamic with both good and bad outcomes. For example, if you purposefully shift your chair away from the desk, perhaps crossing your legs, then you're putting more distance between you and your potential employer. This is a suggestion of distrust or nervousness. Similarly, if you bring the chair up too close to the desk and start leaning over, you are being intimidating. So stay at a comfortable distance from the desk. If there's no desk, follow the same rules. Don't get so close that your breath is in their face, but don't back off so far that you're clearly trying to avoid them.

Be relaxed, be natural, and for the most part, be yourself.

This article by Paul Michael was originally published on Wise Bread.