Body language mistakes to avoid at interview

Woman wearing a business jacket looking serious and crossing her arms


According to the experts, an interviewer considering you for a role will base their decision 7% on what you say, 38% on your voice and speech, and a huge 55% on your body language.

The way you hold yourself in an interview can have a big impact on how you’re perceived, whether it’s an in-person meeting or a video interview.

Here are five bad body language mistakes to avoid…

1. Slumping and slouching

The main things you want to convey through your body language in interviews are confidence and enthusiasm. Slumping forward or leaning back can make you look tired and disengaged.

The best job interview body language is to sit up straight, without being too stiff and formal.
Never lean on your elbow on the desk or collapse back into your chair.

2. Too little eye contact – or too much

Eye contact is enormously important in a job interview. Always make sure you are looking directly at the interviewer when they are speaking, as this shows that you’re interested in what they’re saying.

While you’re speaking, it’s OK to look away, but make sure you regularly ‘check in’ with them visually. Staring intently at someone in bursts longer than 4-5 seconds can make us feel uncomfortable.

Generally, making eye contact comes naturally, but if this is something that you struggle with when nervous, it’s a good thing to focus on.

3. Not smiling

Humans are social creatures and a smile goes a very long way in building rapport. Some people naturally smile less than others, so don’t force it. Do make sure you smile when meeting the person for the first time, though, and at relevant points in the conversation. It’s also important at the end of the meeting to show that you have enjoyed it.

Interviewers are not just checking that you have the right skills for the job. They are assessing how easy it will be to work with you, and negative body language could lead them to doubt how you will fit in with the team.

4. Fidgeting

Being nervous can sometimes lead us to do things we’re unaware of – like jiggling a leg, fiddling with jewellery or playing with a pen. These things are very distracting to an interviewer and could make them think you are overly anxious or you’re hiding something.

Avoid touching your hair or face as again these are taken as bad body language, meaning you’re being dishonest or obstructive. Excessive hand and arm movements while talking can also be seen as negative body language – meaning you lack control.

4. Crossed arms and closed posture

Crossing your arms can make you feel more secure, but to the onlooker it often appears defensive and that you are closing yourself off from the conversation. It is generally seen as very negative body language to cross both your arms and your legs.

Try to keep your hands relaxed in your lap, so that the interviewer can focus on what you are saying. You should aim for a neutral, open posture where your whole body is facing your interviewer.

For more interview tips from workingmums, see our interview tips.

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