Top 6 Body Language Pitfalls during an Interview
(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)
Hello and welcome to this second article on the body language of the successful interviewee. Last month, I shared with you the 3 fundamental elements of your body language in interview which you need to manage in order to make a good impression during that conversation. If you would like to catch it up, just click here.
This month, we’ll look at really bad body language mistakes which can ruin an interview.
But before we delve into this tutorial, let me also point you to an earlier series of articles I produced last year: they focus on preparing you for your verbal interaction with the interviewer. You can find it here. They got a lot of hits so I am hopeful that they will provide you too with food for thought about how to engage the other person during that meeting.
Now let’s look at those ugly body language mistakes in interviews. For those of you familiar with the previous tutorial on the body language of the successful interviewee, you will remember the importance of making eye contact, smiling and shaking hands. So let’s first look at what happens when we don’t make eye contact, and/or don’t smile, and/or don’t shake hands appropriately.
1. Coming across as dishonest
When you avoid making eye contact with someone else, you come across as insincere. That’s because making eye contact is viewed as a mark of honesty. Consider the implications of coming across as dishonest as you share your work achievements… Tragic! But it’s not just the eyes which can sabotage your image. Imagine talking to someone who is covering their mouth while they speak. Or rubbing their nose. Or fiddling their ear lobes. Or crossing their arms. All of the above are universal signs of dishonesty which we all pick up on and understand unconsciously. And we believe what we see more than what we hear.
So make eye contact and make sure your arms remain uncrossed for the duration of the interview. Keep your hands visible and apart – don’t steeple or intertwine your fingers. Allow yourselves gestures to make your points, but keep them small and limited to a few.
2. Coming across as unfriendly
When you don’t smile, you come across as unfriendly. So, whereas appearing dishonest will hurt your credibility around your capabilities, not smiling will damage your personal image. Work is not about making friends but it is about collaborating and when you don’t smile, you come across as cold, disengaged, arrogant even – in short, not a team player.
Many folks hesitate to smile because they are concerned about appearing too nice and equate a serious demeanour with looking professional and exuding gravitas. This is an inaccurate and unhelpful misconception. You see, a smile is that first step towards developing rapport so, when you don’t smile, you appear aloof.
Your smile is your most powerful piece of body language. A genuine smile is a universal sign of warmth that you can send knowing it will be understood and welcome by all.
3. Coming across as disrespectful
Now, how about a weak or over-firm handshake? Well, that makes you appear disrespectful. Let’s recall the history of the handshake: men came to meet other men unarmed, ready to negotiate and collaborate. In that context, the handshake evolved to project both strength of character and openness of mind. Bearing this in mind, we readily understand that a weak handshake will come across as submissive while an over-firm handshake will seem over-bearing. In both cases, there is a lack of respect, either for oneself or for the other person.
Again, remember to show both your hands – even though you need only one to shake. And exercise the right amount of pressure to display consideration – for both of you.
So that’s what happens when you disregard the 3 top elements of body language in interviews. You will come across as either dishonest, or unfriendly or disrespectful, or a mixture of two or even all!
Sadly, more can go wrong…
4. Coming across as anxious
Have you ever sat across someone who was touching their face a lot? Or adjusting their clothes? Or removing invisible flecks from their jacket? Or fiddling with their hair? Ladies, fiddling with rings? If you have ever been on the receiving end of such behaviour, then you know what I mean: that person seemed quite anxious didn’t they?
Most of us will feel nervous about the prospect of interviewing so showing some nerves is not uncommon and the majority of interviewers will understand that and be forgiving. That being said, appearing very anxious is problematic because it does not bode well for how you may behave in meetings or how you take the stand to make a presentation.
There are quite a few techniques to fight interview nerves – my personal favorites involve breathing and managing your inner dialogue – so find the right one(s) for you to that your nerves do not cripple your performance during an interview and do you a big disservice.
5. Coming across as lazy
At the other end of the spectrum, let me invite you to imagine someone who is slouching in their chair, leaning back just a little bit too much in their seat, or even resting their ankle on their opposite knee. What impression would you have if you saw such behaviour? Of someone lazy? Or bored? Or arrogant even? Some folks are so keen to appear relaxed during an interview that they mimic behaviour which is more suited for a meeting with friends.
When you slouch, you do not appear relaxed nor self-confident but rather inappropriate. Depending on the interviewer, “inappropriate” could mean, among others, lazy, disengaged, unreliable, bored, untrustworthy or arrogant. In short, you make a bad impression.
So let me suggest that, instead, you plant your feet firmly on the floor – even if that means lowering the chair! Sit with your back straight irrespective of whether you naturally touch the back of your seat. To show interest, you may lean slightly forward – don’t draw back.
6. Coming across as needy
Last but not least of the body language pitfalls: jiggling your foot. This one makes you look more than anxious: it has you coming across as needy. The same holds true if you lean too close to the interviewer, if you lean too far forward across the table: that conveys the impression that you are desperate for the job, overly keen and lacking in self-confidence.
I am mindful that this gallery of body language pitfalls can be a little scary. To find which ones you may be at risk of falling into, practice with a friend and ask them to be a little hard on you in the interview: you see, we want you to feel some nerves otherwise the experience won’t feel real enough. Once you are reasonably and realistically uncomfortable, your own interview foibles will come out. “Forewarned is forearmed“, says the proverb, so you will be able to work on your pitfalls.
What do you think of these body language mistakes? Do they seem relevant? Did you recognise yourself in one or two?
If this article resonated with you, don’t hesitate to contact me for a chat where we would explore what is going on for you and what you would like to have happen. To contact me, click here.
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