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Bad Body Language: 12 Non-Verbal Cues To Avoid In A Job Interview

Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Forbes Source:

Most job seekers know they shouldn’t discuss certain topics or respond to interview questions in certain ways. But communication doesn’t just consist of verbal speech; it also includes a variety of non-verbal cues.

Applicants in any industry should be aware of how they present themselves and what signals they might be giving off through their actions, appearance and overall body language. Members of Forbes Coaches Council shared some non-verbal cues you should avoid if you want a chance at landing the job.

1. Fidgeting

Avoid fidgeting, tapping your pen, quick and jerky movements, etc. -- they all portray nervousness and apprehension. All other things being equal, people tend to employ people who appear confident and who display self-awareness and self-control. Slow down. Take a breath. Look them in the eye and smile. It's OK to be a bit nervous, but no one employs panickers. - Antonio GarridoAbsolute Sales Development

2. Speaking With Your Hands

When nervous and under pressure, some interviewees have a tendency to highlight their verbal statements through extensive hand gestures. Well-dosed hand gestures are actually part of a good interview performance, but don't let it get to the point where you are speaking with your hands. If it is too much, the impression of "confident and competent" might skip to "nervous and restless." - Tim WindhofWindhof Career Services

3. Making Yourself 'Small'

When we are stressed, we want to disappear. This will show in our body language. We may slouch. We may cross our arms and legs. Try to keep your body language open in an interview and your back straight. It will project confidence and it will also help you relax. - Caterina KostoulaThe Leaderpath

4. Prolonged Eye Contact Or Darting Eyes

Eye contact can be difficult. However, you can strike a balance between darting eyes and overt staring. Darting may portray nervousness. First, seek a soft connection (longer than a glance -- how you'd look at your favorite ice cream flavor). Then, when answering questions, look openly and confidently into their eyes, as you would when telling a colleague the story. - Christine J. Culbertson (Boyle)Coach Christine

5. Pausing For Too Long Before You Answer

While you want to take enough time to answer questions with great thought and authenticity, be careful of appearing hesitant. There is a thin line between thinking of a meaningful response and appearing to be hesitant to give your opinion or make a decision. The power of the pause is a real asset in meaningful conversations, but take too long and it could come across as being unprepared. - Tonya EcholsThrive Coaching Solutions

6. Getting Distracted By Screens Or Objects In The Room

In an interview setting, doing anything that might appear to be a distraction, such as looking at your watch, your phone, or even gazing at something on the interviewer’s desk, might clue the interviewer that your attention has drifted from the matter at hand: getting hired. Stay focused, and use direct eye contact between the parties to demonstrate active listening and responding. - Jill TipographEarly Stage Careers LLC

7. Arriving Late 

Late arrival is disrespectful. Interviewees who fail to arrive 10 minutes prior to the interview start time are non-verbally conveying the sentiment that their time is more important than the interviewer's. Until an interviewee receives a job offer, the playing field favors the interviewer. Without question, punctuality shouts your respect the moment you enter, all without uttering a single word. - Elaine Rosenblum, J.D.ProForm U®

8. Not Mirroring The Interviewer

Mirror any behavior or vocal cues you notice from your interviewer such as smiling, rate of speech, or volume levels. Neurons in the brain responsible for recognizing facial expressions and reading body language cause us to mirror what we see from others in an attempt to create a bond with them. - G. Riley MillsPinnacle Performance Company

9. Appearing Disheveled Or Disorganized

First impressions are still extremely important! Leave your phone in your pocket or bag, making sure all sound and vibrations are turned off. Papers hanging out of your portfolio may be a sign of being disorganized. Show up clean and dressed appropriately for the interview: If you're applying to a law firm, don't show up in leggings, and if you're applying at a kids day camp, don't wear a suit. - Kris McCrea ScrutchfieldMcCrea Coaching

10. A Bad Handshake

A good handshake matters. Avoid squeezing too hard or turning your palm down so the other person has to bend their arm up, and ditch the never-ending pumping that turns a hello into a competition of who-will-let-go-first! Likewise, avoid a limp hand, or only shaking with your fingers. Aim for a firm, full-palm shake with clean, dry hands. - Jessica GlazerCenter for Creative Leadership

11. Not Smiling

In person, a smile is everything. It projects friendliness, warmth, energy and enthusiasm. But even over the phone, stand, smile and look in the mirror while speaking. A smile will change your demeanor and showcase your personality in your tone of voice. Video interviews are increasing as well, so you want to practice speaking and smiling, even when faced with your laptop camera. - Joanne MarkowGreenMason

12. Overthinking Your Body Language

Stop overthinking your non-verbal cues. Being overly practiced creates an atmosphere of inauthenticity that is felt. Instead, be present. Take a deep breath, connect physically to where you are and then focus on connecting with the person you are meeting with. Be curious about them, the job and what they really need. Being present, curious and authentic becomes a refreshing differentiator. - Holly R. PendletonEnvision Business Consulting

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