Your Nonverbal Communication Can Wreck Your Interview

job interview by Selena Dehne, JIST Publishing

Giving a limp handshake, letting your eyes wander and fidgeting are just a few of the subtle blunders that can botch your success in a job interview. Although you may have been unaware you were doing these things, interviewers who pick up on negative nonverbal communication are likely to doubt your fit for the job.

Nonverbal communication can be judged just as much -- and sometimes even more harshly -- than the responses you give to questions you're asked during interviews. It can even be the single factor that helps hiring managers decide between you and another candidate when you're both equally qualified for the job. That's why it's so important to be mindful about your posture, facial expression and other behaviors.

"The most important idea is to project confidence and professionalism," says Heather Krasna, author of 'Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service.'

"If you find yourself becoming very nervous about interviewing, realize that this is normal. Practice interviewing in front of a mirror, on video or with a friend or career coach until you feel a bit more comfortable," she suggests.

In her book, Krasna offers the following tips for ensuring positive, appropriate and polite nonverbal communication:

  • Handshake: A firm handshake is considered a sign of confidence. Take the other person's hand in your right hand (don't use both hands), so that the space between your thumb and first finger touches theirs. Give a firm, but not crushing squeeze, and shake the person's hand up and down slightly, once. If you have sweaty hands, be sure to dry them before your interview.

  • Posture and physical distance: When sitting in a chair, sit up straight or lean forward slightly (don't slouch). If you will be crossing your legs, do it so that one knee is stacked on top of the other or cross your ankles. (Do not cross your legs so that one foot is on top of your other knee.) Alternatively, keep both feet on the floor. Do not stretch your legs out in front of you or sit with your legs spread far apart -- it looks too casual. When standing near someone, about 3 feet of distance is standard in most parts of the United States. Standing closer than this can be quite uncomfortable for others.

  • Arms and hands: You can "talk with your hands" to some extent, but do not do so to the point of distracting your interviewer. Sitting with your arms crossed in front of you can look defensive. Instead, try to have a more open posture. Don't fidget, play with your hair or pen, or bite your nails!

  • Eye contact: Look in the eyes of the person interviewing you. Looking down or away frequently gives a message of not being confident or being confused. Rolling your eyes up is considered a sign of disrespect. Don't stare intensely at the interviewer; just look him or her in the eye as much as possible.

  • Facial expression: Smiling is an important way of showing that you are a friendly individual and that you are enthusiastic about the position. Smile at the beginning and the end of the interview at a minimum. This can't be emphasized enough -- I know several people for whom lack of smiling was a major barrier to employment.

  • Mirroring: You can also take note of the posture and expressions of your interviewer, and adopt some of his or her tone. Be careful, though -- even if an interviewer is quite friendly and casual, that does not mean you should be too casual. It is still a professional job interview.

In addition to these tips, Krasna gives international job seekers a reminder: "Nonverbal communication is quite culturally defined," she says. "If you are interviewing across cultures, be sure to know what is expected of you."

Next: Outrageous Interview Blunders 2011

Selena Dehne is a career writer for JIST Publishing who shares the latest occupational, career and job search information available with job seekers and career changers. She is also the author of JIST's Job Search and Career Blog. Follow her on Twitter at

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Nonverbal communication is so important when interviewing. I am in the process of preparing for an interview and found this article, thought is had some good add ons from this one! Like reading the hiring managers nonverbal communication and how physically close you should get...

September 04 2012 at 6:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard B

Nowadays employers mostly hire from temp agencys so it's not about your past it's about how well you do as a tempory employie and one of the biggest issues for getting hired is your credit score.So if you do good or bad in a job interview it dosen't matter if you have bad credit your screwed!

February 09 2011 at 9:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am a strong believer that knowing how to manage does not equip you to manage everything, that knowing how to teach doesn't equip you to teach everything. Likewise, knowing some HR rules doesn't equip anyone to adequately determine who can best do a job. HR "experts" who know little or nothing about the business for which they are interviewing candidates are in a position of ilusury power now because of the current lack of jobs. They should all be aware, however, that when the economy recovers, when businesses get back to hiring people because they are the best person for the job, and not because they have a nice handshake or good eye contact, these HR exdperts will suddenly find themselves on the other side of the interview desk. Be nice to them on the way up, because you're going to pass them on your way down.

February 09 2011 at 6:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well that explanes it for me I have a hearing loss I have been taught to read the lips of people. During an interview I will look that their mouths. Its a shame the state of our country now a days that I can not be who I am during an interview I now have to be an actor as well as a person just trying to find a job.

February 09 2011 at 5:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jon dohhhh

Cross your legs, don't cross your legs, shake hands firmly, don't shake hands firmly...honestly, really? If you think a hiring manager is going to give you/not give you a job based on stupid body cues, you're naive. They are looking for the BEST fit for a job.

February 09 2011 at 3:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"...doubt your fit..." Really? I thought to be "fit" to be a writer you had to at LEAST know the difference between 'your' and the infinitely more complicated contractual 'you're'.

le sigh.

February 09 2011 at 3:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This article lost all credibility in the first paragraph. Taking interview advice from a "writer" who misuses simple contractions is risky. I'm sure the same has advised about misspelling words on resumes too. Last sentence, first paragraph: "Although you may have been unaware you were doing these things, interviewers who pick up on negative nonverbal communication are likely to doubt your fit for the job." A frighteningly large percentage of individuals fail to understand how to use the words you're and your. Definite waste of space and time.

February 09 2011 at 12:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joe's comment

Silly me; I should've read through the comments before posting mine. In my defense, I was ired that somewhere out there at Careerbuilder someone is getting -paid- to write like a second-year ESL student. I'm with you, Joe, groaning and shaking my head.

February 09 2011 at 3:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My Dad worked for GM for 30 years and passed away but he always drove a Ford! He was a General Assemblyman at GM. ... A Job that I held for 10 years without a degree now requires a Bachelor's Degree for the same job! I don't have a College Degree but some college experience and if I had to apply for the same job for which I have 10 yrs. experience, I'd better have that degree! The hours are lousy, you have to work weekends and the pay is only $10-$12.00 an hour "for a College Degree". Are College Graduates really going to go for this job with that pay? Probably?

February 09 2011 at 12:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Selena: I think you're not qualified to write this piece. And that's just the beginning of what's grammatically wrong with it.

February 08 2011 at 11:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I swear, I will never sit for another job interview. I'm self employed now.

February 08 2011 at 11:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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