“Body language is important during an interview because it is telling a story through non-verbal cues about who you are as a person. Energy can be felt,” says Kristyn Oleskewycz, director at Recruit Action Inc.
Recruiters and hiring managers are used to looking for potential red flags in between the lines — not in a malicious way but because they know candidates naturally aim to tell them what they wanna hear.
The way you carry yourself in an interview can give the wrong impression, which is the last thing you want when you’ve poured your heart and soul into preparing.
“Body language mistakes can impact an offer,” says Oleskewycz. For example, if you are constantly avoiding eye contact, it can come across as dishonest. If you’re fidgeting, it may send the message you’re easily distracted.
“These non-verbal cues are just as important as what you are saying during an interview.”
Now that you’re aware of the importance of avoiding accidental body language faux-pas, no need to be overly paranoid. You can take simple steps to prevent any mishaps.
“Take the time to practice in front of a mirror, with a family member or videotape yourself. This allows you to see non-verbal cues that you may have not been noticing before,” says Oleskewycz.
“Everyone has little ticks that they might not be aware of especially when they are nervous. The most important thing is to create awareness around these non-verbal cues to prevent them from happening during an interview.”
Here are five interview body language blunders that can cost you an offer — stay self-aware and avoid them as much as possible if you want to get the job.
Little eye contact
Oleskewycz says it’s hard to recover from a lack of eye contact during an interview: “If you are constantly avoiding eye contact with the interviewer, it is hard for that not to come across as dishonest or that you are hiding something.”
If you’re shy (especially under pressure), remember to slow down and periodically look at the interviewer while speaking. It’s also easier to practice sustaining eye contact while listening — just focus on being truly present and taking in what your interlocutor is saying.
Did you know that excess fidgeting can send the message you won’t be able to stay focused on the clock?
“If you are constantly not able to sit still during an interview – although this could be attributed to nerves, which is normal – a lot of movement and fidgeting can be very distracting and may signal the interviewer that you have difficulty concentrating or are easily distracted,” says Oleskewycz.
Aim to plant your feet on the ground and rest your palms on top of your legs while sitting down if the temptation to play with a pen or shake your leg up and down is too strong.
While you don’t want to be fidgeting like crazy, you also don’t want to appear too stiff and rigid. Being relaxed enough to be yourself and showing expressiveness will help make the conversation flow more naturally and convey that you have the soft skills and passion needed to be a valuable contributor.
So how do you achieve that? Through intentional hand gestures and expressions. “Don’t be afraid to use hand gestures to explain your points and answers – use any nervous energy in thoughtful ways instead of fidgeting/moving around without a purpose,” says Oleskewycz.
“A strong and upright posture is important during an interview. If you are slouching in your chair, it can be perceived as laziness.”
Those core muscles never mattered as much as during an interview. Yes, months of working from home in a less-than-ideal setup might have impacted your posture. But try to be mindful of sitting straight during a job interview — your voice and confidence will also be positively affected.
“Show your engagement and interest in the interview by smiling, nodding and keeping eye contact with the interviewer,” says Oleskewycz.
Being too serious and poker-faced can inadvertently create tension and make your interviewers feel uneasy. And so does having closed-off body language such as crossing your arms in front of your chest. “If you are folding your arms in front of your chest it can be intimidating or uninviting.”
Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”