The Top Ten Body Language Mistakes Job Candidates Make – Part 1

Note: this is the first of a two-part series – part two will be published in two weeks.

According to the recent article, Beating Interview Stage Fright, published by the executive recruitment firm The Ladders, your body language during an interview speaks volumes about you and is an important consideration in the selection process. Most people are very aware of the messages sent by the body language of other people. However, we are often unaware of the messages being sent by our own body language, especially in pressure situations like an interview.

A survey of interviewers and career search experts suggest these are most significant body language miscues made during job interviews:

1. Failure to make positive eye contact. Too much eye contact is the Charlie Manson stare and it is creepy. Too little eye contact suggests someone is not telling the truth. The level of eye contact should mirror the interviewer and be accompanied by a smile or pleasant expression. Smile from the eyes as well as the mouth.

2. Lack of a smile. Smiles immediately convey warmth and trust. Some people smile naturally and as a result, attract others. Smiles should be real, frequent, and never forced. If you are a candidate with strong or imposing features, you may need to smile more to counterbalance a tendency for people to think you are angry or intimidating. Lack of enthusiasm is a close cousin and conveys disinterest. In the picture above, Sandy’s professional appearance is marred by her lack of a warm smile.

3. Poor posture. Rounded shoulders, head down, and slouching all are elements of bad posture and suggest low energy, disengagement, and disinterest. When you sit, stand, and walk with your head up and your spine straight, it conveys energy and confidence. Note how Richard (above) is slouching in his interview chair.

4. Fidgeting. While some nervousness is to be expected, candidates who fidget with their hair, clothing, glasses, and or pen, or bounce their legs, squirm, and the like, convey a sense of inadequacy to do the job. Chewing gum, fingers, fingernails, and the inside of your cheek or lips are all similar ways people fidget. Absent-mindedly doodling is also an ineffective and related behavior.

5. Poor handshakes. Handshakes are neither a test of strength nor a contest to see who can get closest to simulating a moist and limp dead fish. A proper professional handshake should involve the whole hand, be firm but not crushing, and be held for a few seconds, while smiling and looking the other person in the eyes long enough to notice their eye color.

The remaining five body language mistakes will be presented in part two of this series in two weeks.

This article is excerpted from the 2013-2014 edition of the GEPA Development Guide℠, the career search textbook published by Boyer Management Group (BMG). BMG works with employers and job seekers alike to help both become more successful. For employers, we offer world-class talent acquisition and onboarding tools, training and programs, including management/leadership development training, as well as programs for new managers and supervisors. For job seekers, we offer the world’s first assessment to measure an individual’s knowledge and awareness of current and emerging career search best practices, along with the educational programs to support higher ed curriculum, career coaches and individual job seekers. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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