Our body language speaks volumes. However, the message it conveys is sometimes at odds with what we are trying to say. There are mistakes we all make, some we might be aware of while others can slip by unnoticed.

We form our opinion of others during the first five minutes we meet them. Hiring managers do the same. Our experience and the education might get us invited to the interview but once we are there, we are judged for our personal conduct more than we are for our background. Body language mistakes can cost us the job.

Check out the following seven points and see what type of body language mistakes to avoid before heading to the next interview.

(1) Handshake mistakes

  • too loose
  • too tight
  • sweaty palms

A loose handshake is typically associated with lack of interest and enthusiasm. A too tight handshake can be a sign of aggression or pushiness. Sweaty palms signal nervousness. The right handshake is done with a firm (but not vice-like) grip. The perfect handshake conveys confidence. It might sound weird, but if you're unsure about your greeting, try it out with a friend and practice a handshake.

(2) Mistakes we do with our eyes

  • staring
  • vacant look
  • not enough eye contact

Eye contact can go wrong if we stare, as the onlooker might see it as a sign of aggression and can feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, not enough eye contact can signify timidity, and the vacant look may show a lack of attention.

If unsure, look the interviewer in the eye for one extra second before looking away. Good eye contact establishes a personal connection, and it shows engagement and interest.

Make sure you keep a composed face during an interview as facial expressions might reveal something you want to keep hidden.

(3) Mistakes we do with our head

  • excessive nodding
  • playing with your hair
  • bowed head

A common habit is excessive nodding. It is used to signal agreement, which is good, but should be limited to one or two nods because overdoing it undermines the intention of looking in control. Playing with your hair is another gesture that is distracting and can look childish in the eyes of the interviewer.

(4) Facial expressions to avoid

  • frowning
  • lack of smile

Not smiling enough and frowning can show nervousness or a lack of confidence. We have to be conscious at how we react to certain questions and avoid frowning at all cost. A smile is always more engaging, and a testimony of confidence. 

(5) Arm movements to avoid

  • crossed arms
  • hidden hands
  • excessive pointing

Arm movements are powerful gestures and are used to complement our speech and to underline important parts of our message. If they are not used carefully, they can show an array of negative emotions. One of the biggest mistakes one can make is to sit through an interview with crossed arms. It is a defensive gesture and can reveal boredom, timidity, discomfort and resistance. Keep your arms in sight, on the table or folded gently on your lap.

Using hands to make a point is okay if it is not overdone. Use arms and hands sparingly and avoid pointing too much because it is a sign of aggression.  Crossed arms is a defensive gesture thus must be avoided at interviews.

(6) Speaking mistakes

  • sounding apologetic
  • speaking too fast

Speaking with a confident voice, in shorter sentences punctuated with breaks gives an excellent flow to any speech. Avoid talking too fast as it is hard to follow. Similarly, playing the victim, an apologetic tone of voice undermines your credibility and shows a lack of confidence.

(7) Posture mistakes

  • fidgeting
  • slouching
  • leaning too close to someone

Slouching is what we do when we lack energy or are bored. Every interviewee’s aim should be to show enthusiasm and energy - and part of that is sitting up straight.

Explaining something and leaning way too close to your interviewer is to be avoided as it may be interpreted as too intensive or aggressive. Last, but not least, listen to your mother when she says ‘stop fidgeting.' It is advice to be taken seriously, as it is a sign of nervousness.

It's hard to be aware of all of these details at the same time - especially when you're not aware that you're doing them in the first place. If you know that you tend to get very nervous in interview situations, it may help practising with a friend before you head to the actual interview.  

Allan Peas: The power is in the palm of your hands