June 18, 2013
7 nonverbal mistakes to avoid in a job interview
Last week, I discussed how reading the nonverbal cues of hiring managers can improve your chances of interview success. This week, I'll focus on nonverbal mistakes that job seekers should avoid during interviews. These include:
Unusual handshake. A "limp fish" handshake (too soft) can signify insecurity, while a "handshake of steel" (too hard) can project arrogance. A handshake lasting way too long tells hiring managers that you might be trying overly hard to impress them and that you might stretch the truth about your accomplishments, knowledge or experience.
Poor or too much eye contact. Poor eye contact can signify that you aren't interested in the position. At the other end of the spectrum, too much eye contact can be intimidating and turn the interview into a staredown.
Out-of-control gestures. These include constantly tapping a foot, shaking a leg, clicking a pen or too many hand and arm gestures -- and they take attention away from you. I once interviewed a woman who kept using big arm gestures while she talked. She knocked over both our cups of coffee ... and the interview went downhill from there.
Constantly clearing throat. While some might consider this verbal communication, I'm including it on the list. It's a nervous habit that can make it almost impossible for a hiring manager to pay attention to your answers. One of the most annoying tics I've experienced during an interview was a man who kept clearing his throat every few seconds while he talked.
Lack of facial expression. Humans have emotions, so when you don't smile or emote any type of positive facial expression during an interview, it can be a turnoff for hiring managers.
Poor posture. Leaning back and crossing your arms and/or legs can come across as either not interested in the discussion or as overly confident or arrogant.
Odd attire. Clothing can have a negative impact if it's inconsistent with the position or the company culture. I once interviewed a man for a marketing manager position at a conservative health-care company who came to the interview dressed like John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever." His unbuttoned shirt, exposed hairy chest and loads of necklaces didn't fit the position, company or industry.
While I've never made a hiring decision based solely on a candidate's nonverbal communication, I use the cues to help me see the big picture and to uncover inconsistencies. To increase your chances of interview success, be consciously aware of your nonverbal communication and avoid these seven mistakes.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
- career profile (169)
- cool jobs (74)
- education and training (63)
- entry level (70)
- etiquette (108)
- events (71)
- featured (442)
- finding your passion (98)
- health care (76)
- interviewing (91)
- job fairs (61)
- management (96)
- market trends (92)
- networking (286)
- resumes (103)
- salary (85)
- social media (94)
- technology (118)
- unemployment (57)
- work/life balance (93)