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7 non verbal mistakes people make during interviews

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Image by Quinn Dombrowski used under Creative Commons License

Image by Quinn Dombrowski used under Creative Commons License

Non-verbal communication can actually make up 70% of the message your are transmitting. It is much more powerful than verbal communications but much more difficult to control. Having performed hundreds of interviews, I have a list of the biggest non-verbal blunders I have notices during interviews that I wanted to share with you.

  1. Too much or too little eye contact -  Not enough eye contact and it conveys lack of interest or low self confidence. Too much eye contact can be seen as intimidating and frightening in some cases. During one 45 minute interview, the interviewee starred at a spot on my forehead the entire time blinking very very rarely. It made the entire discussion very awkward.The trick is stay relaxed and do as you would normally do.
  2. Inappropriate clothing - You should dress for the position you are applying for and the culture of the company. I was interviewing for a director position in a conservative multinational consulting company and the candidate showed up in a 1970's candy blue tuxedo.  In another situation an interviewee for an entry level PC field technician job showed up in a $5,000 Armani suit with crocodile skin shoes. How do I know? Because the candidate worked it into the interview conversation to ensure I realized what he was wearing. Do your homework and wear appropriate clothing. 
  3. Give me a normal handshake - Your father told you that a handshake quickly defines who you are in he was right. Too weak and it projects insecurity. Too strong and it exudes arrogance. As ridiculous as it may sound, practice your handshake strength with friends and family to find a happy medium. 
  4. Don't be tick man/woman - The interviewer knows being interviewed is stressful and we access that there will be a certain amount of movement because of this (movement often relieves pressure for the interviewee)but there are limits. Be conscious about your body, posture and movements. Don't tap your foot nervously on the floor, table or chair leg. Don't continually click and unclick you pen. Don't twirl your hair. It's good to have a normal amount of arm and hand movements as you are explaining your points but don't let it get out of hand (you are not directing an orchestra). Remember that you want to present yourself as an energetic but in control individual. Practicing your interview in front of a mirror or camera can help.
  5. You are not a statue - On the other end of the spectrum is the emotionless statue. These are people that have a completely blank emotionless presence during the entire interview. I had one of these and he gave off a serial killer vibe that quickly "killed" the opportunity for him. The modus operandi is be calm but engaged. A little emotion is a good thing.
  6. Smell nice not like a perfume department - It is a good idea to pick a nice smell and use it sparingly (cologne, perfume, aftershave, etc). First don't bathe in the smell. A few dabs or spritzes is all you need. Second please choose one smell and go with it. Don't mix different products each with their own smell. There was one interviewee that showed up smelling like an entire department store perfume section. He had used a handful of different smells on him (clearly) from body spray, perfume, deodorant, etc. I know because I asked. Why did I ask? Because the combination was so strong my co-interviewer and I sneezed for about 5 minutes.
  7. Other general recommendations:
  • Smile sometimes
  • Don't cross your arms, it shows you as being closed off

A survey of 2,000 hiring managers showed that most thought they could properly judge a candidate within 90 seconds of first seeing them. This shows the power of non-verbal cues. I would never make a hiring, firing or promotion decision based solely on non-verbal cues, they do play an important role in building an overall picture of the person being evaluated.  The key to presenting a positive and welcoming non verbal aura is consciously acknowledging these points and working on them to "put your best foot forward"

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