Don’t Let Your Body Language Trash Your Chances of Landing That Dream Job

A young man averts his eyes during an interview.
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My neighbor is a terrible liar.

My house is right in the path of Hurricane Irma so I popped next door to ask my neighbor if she needed help with anything.

“Oh, no. I’m fine. We’re fine. Everything’s fine,” she assured me. The staccato tapping of her foot and the way she kept twirling a lock of hair around her finger told me otherwise.

She finally admitted she’s a nervous wreck (me too!) but her body language gave her away long before that.

Bodies are funny like that. They can betray the words coming out of our mouth because some body language is an unconscious behavior.

With the possible exception of professional poker players, most of us don’t go around monitoring our body language all the time. There’s one situation, however, where you probably should.

Watch Your Body Language During Job Interviews

Hiring managers say body language mistakes are a huge deal-breaker during job interviews. As many as 30% of candidates display negative body language during job interviews, according to a recent survey.

Senior managers say several non-verbal cues can tell them a lot about the person they’re interviewing. Candidates who do things like cross their arms, play with something on the table or slouch in their chairs can torpedo their chances of landing a job.

The top behaviors that are likely to make or break your interview include:

  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Posture
  • Handshake
  • Fidgeting
  • Hand gestures

“Providing thoughtful responses and asking intelligent questions carry a lot of weight during a job interview, but your body language can also speak volumes,” said Brandi Britton, a district president for staffing company OfficeTeam. “Candidates need to do everything they can to increase their chances of receiving an offer — and that includes avoiding negative and distracting nonverbal behaviors.”

Hiring managers expect candidates to be nervous during interviews. It’s how you manage your anxiousness that can make the difference between getting the job or getting passed over.

One way to take the edge off is to practice answering common interview questions before your appointment. It’s also a good idea to prepare a few questions for your interviewer to make a great impression.

The more relaxed you are going into your interview, the less likely you are to fidget, glance around or wear a terrified expression on your face.

Learning to control your unconscious body language has benefits outside the job interview process, too. It can help you keep your cool during negotiations like asking for a raise or buying a new car.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her favorite expression about body language is “ she looks as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”