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10 Body Language Mistakes to Avoid in Job Interviews

10 Body Language Mistakes to Avoid in Job Interviews
Credit: sharpshutter/Shutterstock

In job interviews, hiring managers judge you on more than just how you answer their questions. They also take a close look at your body language, new research finds.

Your eye contact, handshake and posture can all help, or hinder, your chances of landing a job, a study from CareerBuilder found.

In the survey, nearly 70 percent of hiring managers named failing to make eye contact as one of the biggest body-language mistakes candidates make during interviews, with 39 percent saying not smiling at all is one of the biggest blunders.

Part of the reason for body language's importance is that most interviewers make decisions on whether they will consider hiring a candidate before the candidate even has a chance to answer multiple questions. The study found that more than half of employers know within the first 5 minutes of an interview if a candidate is a good fit for a position. [See Related Story: Following Up After Your Job Interview the Right Way]

Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder, said anxiety can cause many body-language issues. But doing your homework before a meeting can help ward off those nerves, she said.

"The best solution to minimize pre-interview anxiety is solid preparation," Haefner, said in a statement. "If you don't read about the company and research your role thoroughly, you could magnify your fear of interviewing poorly and lose the opportunity."

Overall, these are the 10 biggest body-language faux pas that job seekers make during interviews, followed by the percentage of respondents naming that issue:

  1. Failing to make eye contact: 67 percent
  2. Failing to smile: 39 percent
  3. Playing with something on the table: 34 percent
  4. Fidgeting too much in their seats: 32 percent
  5. Crossing their arms over their chests: 32 percent
  6. Having bad posture: 31 percent
  7. Playing with their hair or touching their faces: 28 percent
  8. Having a weak handshake: 22 percent
  9. Using too many hand gestures: 13 percent
  10. Having a handshake that was too strong: 9 percent

Haefner said body language can tell employers a lot about who you are.

"Employers are looking for those nonverbal cues to indicate a candidate's level of professionalism and if they will be the right fit for the position," Haefner said.

In addition to poor body language, several other behaviors can quickly squash your chances of getting hired. Two-thirds of the hiring managers surveyed said a candidate getting caught lying is the biggest deal breaker during an interview. Another 64 percent said answering a cellphone or texting during an interview is one of the quickest ways to eliminate yourself from consideration.

Coming across as arrogant or entitled, dressing inappropriately, and appearing to lack of accountability are the other biggest interview deal breakers, employers said in the survey.

To make the most out of your job interview, Haefner suggested several tips, including:

  • Practice: Being prepared is the best way to avoid an interview disaster, Haefner said. She recommended practicing your interview skills ahead of time with friends or family members. When you're finished, ask them for feedback on things like posture, your handshake and eye contact.
  • Use video: Job seekers can gain a lot of insight into their interview performances by making videos of their practice sessions. Haefner said watching yourself can help you identify any mistakes you're making unconsciously.
  • Know your elevator pitch: An elevator pitch is a 30-second speech summarizing what you do and why you'd be a perfect fit for the role. Haefner said this is a good answer to the common interview question "Tell me about yourself." In addition to having your answer ready, you should also be prepared to back up your claims later with specific examples that showcase your skills and experience.
  • Do your homework: Take time before an interview to research the company you are interviewing with and come prepared with several questions for the interviewer. Haefner said this helps you show employers that you're just as interested in them as they are in you.
  • Relax: Haefner said taking a few deep breaths prior to the interview can help relieve some of the anxiety that leads to fidgeting and other nervous tics.

The study was based on surveys of more than 2,600 hiring and human resources managers.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.