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Non-verbal mistakes to avoid in job interviews

By Forbes | February 10th 2017

While the most important aspect of an interview should be the content of your answers, the interaction you have with a hiring manager is also important, even the non-verbal communication.

Good non-verbal communication can help establish a positive connection, whereas bad or strange non-verbal communication can be odd and sometimes even a little unsettling if you are the hiring manager.

Here are seven non-verbal mistakes to avoid during your next job interview:

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 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 stare down.

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 expansive arm gestures while she talked. She knocked over both our cups of coffee ... and the interview went downhill from there.

Lack of facial expressions

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 is 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 in an unbuttoned shirt that exposed a hairy chest and loads of necklaces. This didn’t fit the position, company or industry.

Clearing your throat

While you might consider this verbal communication, I’m including it on the list. For some people, clearing their throat can be a habit that gets worse when they’re nervous. During job interviews, it can be distracting to the hiring manager. Try drinking some warm tea with honey in it before your interview to see if it helps soothe your throat, or have a glass of water handy during the interview. Then when you feel the need to clear your throat, drink a sip of water instead.

Most managers don’t make hiring decisions based solely on a candidate’s non-verbal communication, but they do use the cues to help them determine if a candidate will be a good cultural fit.

To increase your chances of interview success, be consciously aware of your non-verbal communication and avoid these seven mistakes.

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