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Ten body language mistakes to avoid in an interview

Book open Reading time: 4 mins

Recent studies show that success in interviews depends 7% on what we say, 38% on our voice and grammar, and a gargantuan 55% on our body language. So whilst your standard interview preparation might involve hours reading articles and company websites, you’d do much better to use at least some of this time smartening up your non-verbal communication. 

This is no easy task: most of us have little idea how we come across. The first step is knowing what to avoid. The second is applying this to yourself. You’ll need to ask a friend to be brutally honest or get them to video you. Once you know what you’re doing wrong, you can practice fixing it. 

This way you’ll have both the knowledge and physical presence to land that great internship, place on a prestigious grad scheme or next rung up the ladder at a digital agency. 

Two people sitting and talking about 10 body language mistakes to avoid in an interview

1. The wrong handshake 

Handshakes are the ultimate first impression. Crunch the bones in your interviewer’s hand and you’ll come across as arrogant. Offer a limp leaf and you’ll come across as insecure. The best advice is to try and match the strength of your interviewer’s handshake - which if he or she is an experienced professional is probably somewhere sensibly in between. 

2. Lack of eye contact

The inability to maintain good eye contact suggests low confidence and even dishonesty - not what you want your interviewer to start thinking about you the moment you’ve just met. Maintaining eye contact during the initial handshake is really important. Try and hold it for a moment longer than you might otherwise.

Learn what employers look for in a video interview. 

3. Staring 

Good eye contact does not mean staring intently into your interviewer’s eyes throughout the interview. That’s a bit creepy. Focus on listening attentively and eye contact should follow naturally from there. If you have two or more people interviewing you, attempt to make some eye contact with each of them individually.

4. Bad posture

So you’ve successfully negotiated the body language pitfalls as far as the interview chair. Don’t slouch back in relief - you’ll seem either overly confident or disinterested in the role. By contrast, sitting on the edge of your chair, noticeably learning forwards, is a bit too eager school pupil. So find a confident neutral position, sitting fully on the chair with your back and head held straight. 

5. Too many hand gestures

Our media-coached politicians gesticulate constantly. In an interview you don’t need to follow their lead. Too much finger pointing or air chopping makes you seem strident, not decisive, and letting your hands flap around will just make them think you’re in a perpetual state of panic. 

Take a practice run with our video interview practice test.

6. Crossed arms

Tempting as it may to lock your arms firmly away by crossing them over your chest, this isn’t going to help you come across well either. Keep your hands relaxed in your lap, gesticulating only minimally as you might in any conversation. 

7. Looking too serious 

You may be nervous and acutely aware that you want these people to take you seriously, but that doesn’t mean looking like the cat just ate your canary. You’re interviewing for a job because you want it. So express your enthusiasm for the role and organisation in your face as well as your words. 

8. Touching your hair and face

We all do it, apparently because it’s a proven comfort measure. But it looks so bad (and a bit unhygienic - would you want to shake someone’s hand after he’s spent the last 40 minutes rubbing his nose?). If you’ve got long hair, tie it back neatly so you can’t toy with the ends. And, make a conscious effort not to touch your face for entire time you’re there. 

9. Excessive nodding 

In interviews we want to seem keen and agreeable, but nodding all the time is not an effective way to communicate this. Instead, you’ll look too eager to please. Try and keep your head still. If you’re listening properly, then there is no need to nod as well. 

10. Fidgeting 

Have you ever sat next to anyone who constantly jiggles his legs or shifts around in his chair? It’s annoying and distracting. Place both feet firmly on the floor then channel your nervous energy into thinking hard about answering the interviewer’s questions with all the knowledge you’ve prepared.

Read: 10 top tips for face-to-face interviews

Prepare for your interview with Bright Network Academy

Find out what companies look for and how to prepare with the Bright Network Academy module on 'Acing an Interview'.