by Debby Carreau - @debbycarreau
Most of us prepare for job interviews the same way: Research the company, Google "how to answer common interview questions," practice answering them out loud and then hope for the best. But rarely do we think about how we present ourselves to our potential future employers.
Body language is a large indicator of your confidence and comfort level in any given situation, and it can make or break your chances of landing the job. Here are six common body language mistakes to avoid in your next interview:
1. Not optimizing eye contact
One of the most important skills to master for a job interview is maintaining appropriate eye contact. In a 2018 CareerBuilder report, 67 percent of the 2,500 hiring managers surveyed said that failure to make eye contact was the top body language mistake job seekers make. (Another study, dating as far back as 1979, found that people who sustain extended eye contact are more likely to be perceived as intelligent and credible.)
"Express warmth by smiling often and avoid making shifty eye movements."
That's not to say you should be intensely staring down at your interviewer the entire time. Start the contact when you first meet them at the initial handshake. Express warmth by smiling often and avoid making shifty eye movements.
2. Poor posture
No slouching — always keep a strong, straight back. Lean forward slightly from time to time to show interest.
A strong posture will not only make you look more confidence, it can also help you feel more confident and perform better in your interview. Studies have shown that individuals who sit up straighter are more likely to view themselves as having strong leadership skills, whereas those with hunched postures have higher risks of feeling easily stressed.
Fake it 'til you make it, right?
3. Smiling too much (or not enough)
Succeeding isn't as simple as just smiling. Smiling at the beginning and end of your interview — but not as much in between — will make you seem more approachable and likable. It's all about balance. Do what feels natural and don't overthink it. A simple trick is to try and match the energy or demeanor of your interviewer.
Too much fidgeting will make you look anxious and nervous, which might cause your interviewer to question your assertiveness and interpersonal warmth. Avoid the temptation to fidget your fingers or, even worse, nearby objects!
By embracing stillness, you can display the persona of a confident and capable leader. If you have a hard time doing this, practice answering questions while keeping as still as possible in front of a mirror.
5. Not dressing for the job
From your clothes and accessories down to your shoes (and even the way you style your hair!), what you wear is an extension of your body language.
"When in doubt, go for shades of blue or black."
The little details matter, so put plenty of thought into how you want to appear on the day of your interview. Are your shoes polished? Did you shower that morning? Are the colors you chose to wear too bold, or just bold enough, for the job you want? When in doubt, go for shades of blue or black, but steer clear of anything too bright or boring, like orange and brown.
6. A weak handshake
Your handshake is the first and last impression you will make in a job interview. According to a study from the Beckman Institute, a strong handshake can both diminish the impact of a negative impression and make a positive interaction even better.
Another tip: at the end of your interview, ensure a strong handshake accompanied by strong eye contact and a few kind words. It can be as simple as: "Thank you for taking the time to meet with me [interviewer's name]. I really look forward to hearing back from you."
Debby Carreau is an entrepreneur, author and founder of Inspired HR. She has been recognized as one of Canada's Top 25 HR Professionals and is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, among many others. She is a board member for FinDev Canada, Young Presidents Organization and Elevation Group. Follow her on Twitter @DebbyCarreau .