We all know that body language is of critical importance in all human interactions. This is especially true when interviewing. When you are being interviewed, you are being evaluated on not only what you say, but how you say it. With that in mind, here are the most common body language mistakes people make, and how you can avoid them.
Poor posture. Slouching in your chair sends the message that you are lazy. Leaning slightly forward indicates that you are interested in engaging with the interviewer.
Not making eye contact. When you speak with someone, look her in the eye. This both shows respect and commands respect. However, avoid staring, as that can be read as creepy.
Failure to use hand gestures. When you are nervous, it can be tempting to fold your hands and keep them clasped. But this can backfire, because it has the potential to send the message that you are hiding something. Use hand gestures in the interview as you would normally in your speech.
Fidgeting. Whether it’s shaking your foot or picking at a hangnail, fidgeting distracts the conversation and puts the focus where it needn’t be. You do not need to be perfectly still, but don’t fidget.
Blank expression. Smile and nod where it is appropriate. You want to demonstrate that you’re paying attention to what’s been said, and that you have personality.
Limp handshake. A firm handshake demonstrates confidence. A limp handshake indicates awkwardness and/or inexperience.
Crossing your arms. This can be perceived as either a defensive or an aggressive stance. People respond better to someone whose arms are not in guard mode.
Human communication is only 20% verbal. The other 80% is nonverbal, and if you’re saying one thing but your body language is communicating the opposite, your interviewer is going to pick up on that subtext. A helpful exercise, which can be a bit uncomfortable, is to take a video of yourself answering some typical interview questions. When you review the footage, be on the lookout for anything you might be inadvertently telling your audience. Be aware of the nonverbal messages you are sending, and practice your body language as well as your verbal responses to interview questions.