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Ten Body Language Habits to Avoid in Interviews

Clare Hopping

Flazingo Photos/Flickr Flazingo Photos/Flickr

What you say with your body indicates as much about you as your words. When you need to make the best impression, control your message by avoiding these negative body language cues.

When people gather impressions of us quicker than we can open our mouths, body language is as crucial as verbal language. Some body language cues have greater negative impact than verbal language, as body language is often considered more natural.

Body language becomes especially important in interview settings where we want to make the best first impression. Career expert Dan Burns tells Forbes how “.”

Take a look at these ten body language mistakes, and how to avoid them in order to succeed in any professional situation.


Posture is one of the first things people notice when meeting us. If you are slouched, you can come off as insecure, uninterested, or unmotivated. Upright posture denotes control, assertion, and attentiveness.

To keep a balanced posture during crucial professional moments - interviews, meetings, business trips - make sure you are practicing correct posture at all times. This way, you won’t ever feel like you have to “sit up” when someone important walks into the room: you will always be prepared.


Interviews and first meetings can make anyone nervous, but the trick is not letting anyone notice your nerves. Go-to fidgeting moves like playing with your hair, tapping a desk or your leg, or moving around in your chair signify discomfort and anxiety.

If your potential boss or colleague sees that you cannot control simple body movements in an interview, they are likely to judge you unable to handle the many fast-paced and stressful situations that come with any professional environment.

Try practicing stability at home. Sit or stand while talking to someone and keep your hands stable. Make sure your hands are in a comfortable position, so you will not have to constantly adjust them to find a more relaxed position. With enough practice, you can go into any interview comfortably and keep your hands and feet steady, naturally.

Negative Facial Expressions

Often, people do not see how they look to others when they are talking. Many unconsciously scrunch their face, clench their jaws, or grind their teeth. Again, these ticks clue others into our nervousness. These nervous habits can also come off as a sign of disinterest, as though you will do anything to distract yourself.

These habits can be quelled through controlled breathing and self-awareness. Stop whatever you are doing right now and notice your face muscles. Are they relaxed? Are your eyes squinting? Jaws clenched?

If you answered yes to any of these, in crucial moments, try taking the focus off of your face and putting it on your breathing patterns and the task at hand. This will also make you a better listener in interviews. Instead of clenching your face muscles, you can relax and focus on what the interviewer is asking you.


Not only do we clench our face muscles, we also stiffen our body. When you stiffen your body, you look and feel uncomfortable. Hiring managers want to know that you will be comfortable in your new work environment, not nervous and uneasy. So relax.

Before going into an interview, take a deep, full-body breath, and exhale through your mouth (this large exhale should also help straighten out your posture). Stretch out your arms and legs to loosen your limbs.

This stretch and newly heightened posture will help you feel more confident, and you will appear collected and trustworthy to those around you.

Lack Of Eye Contact

In western culture, eye contact is a sign of respect. Eye contact is also one of the primary ways to determine whether someone is listening and interested in what you are saying. When asked difficult questions or deep in thought, it is normal to look away, usually to either side of you. Avoid looking down for long periods of time, or at all.

Before a big interview or presentation, make an effort to talk to others with sincere eye contact, breaking away momentarily whenever it feels natural. Just be sure to regain eye contact, and maintain it for the majority of the encounter.

Mismatched Verbal And Nonverbal Messages

While everyone has good intentions going into interviews and important meetings, these intentions do not always come off as expected. Make sure you are aware of your facial expressions and vocal inflections when speaking. You do not want to say you are enthused about a new opportunity, but sound like you just woke up, or want to go back to sleep.

Try recording yourself having a conversation, or hold a mock interview with a friend. Playback the recording to hear yourself speak, noticing the times where what you say does not match how you say it. The self-awareness you'll achieve after doing this a couple of times will help you sound genuine and convincing.

Not Smiling

Although you do not want to be too lighthearted in an interview—you are in a professional setting—you do not want to be too serious either. Not smiling when first meeting someone indicates that you are unapproachable, pretentious, or rude.

You want potential employers to appreciate both your professional work and your personable characteristics.

The old saying, “it takes more muscles to frown than to smile,” is still true. So give your muscles a break and smile. Smiling will show others your warmth and openness, as well as give them an invitation to respond in kind.

Weak Handshake

A common custom when first meeting someone is to shake hands. A solid handshake asserts your presence and your desire to be in your given situation. In The Definitive Book of Body Language, authors Barbara and Allan Pease say that the handshake is a sign of trust and welcome.

Giving a weak handshake will give the impression that either you are not trustworthy or you do not welcome the situation.

Put thought into your handshakes before you reach out to accept one. Look the other person in the eye as you shake their hand with conviction, mindful that you don't shake so strongly that you cause them pain.

Crossing Arms

Part of going into an interview is subjecting yourself to a new situation and new people. Show your openness by opening up your body. Do not hide behind your limbs by crossing your arms and cutting off energy between you and your interviewer.

Crossed arms give off a feeling of unease and unwillingness. You want to open up and show that you are ready for any new challenge.

Time Filler Distractions

At times interviews and meetings go longer than expected. Do not express your impatience by checking your phone or looking at your watch. Show that you are dedicated and interested by keeping focused throughout the duration of the session.

Focusing on maintaining eye contact and listening will help you avoid easy distractions like looking at the ground, zoning out, or staring blankly at windows.

Clare Hopping

Clare Hopping has been involved in the recruitment of both full-time employees and freelance staff for ten years. She specialises in recruiting staff via social media and digital platforms.