10 Body Language Mistakes to Spot During Job Interviews

Certain Non-verbal Behaviors Can Be Big Red Flags

Sometimes You Just Know

First impressions aren’t everything, but…well, sometimes they are everything.

Hiring managers might not ever admit it publicly, but first impressions often help drive hiring decisions to a large degree. In a new survey from CareerBuilder, employers opened up about job interviews — specifically how bad body language negatively influences their decision on moving forward in the interview process. According to the nationwide survey which polled more than 2,100 hiring and human resource managers, nearly half — 49% — of employers know within the first five minutes of an interview if a candidate is a good fit. After 15 minutes, that number rockets all the way up to 90%.

The survey also examined how non-verbal cues can have an even bigger impact on whether a candidate is hired than the words he/she uses. So what kinds of bad body language should hiring managers look for?

10. Too Strong of a Handshake

Too much of a good thing can actually be bad.

Case in point, 7% of those surveyed said they were put off by handshakes that were just too strong. While everyone knows a firm handshake is a good thing, there’s a difference between firm and Hulk. Be on the lookout for candidates who are so overanxious and eager to impress that they break bones or pull your shoulder out of socket with vigorous squeezing and shaking. Try to find someone who shakes with confidence, but don’t hire the “hand crippler” or else your clients might have some complaints.

9. Too Many Hand Gestures

Someone who makes an impression is good, but if you get hit by someone trying to make a point? Not so good.

Of all the hiring managers interviewed, 11% said they are put off by people who gesticulate wildly during job interviews. While it might seem harmless to some, if it’s hard for you to focus on what the interviewee is saying because of all the arm-flailing, then you might not want this person representing your company. You can’t have someone who acts like an air traffic controller or doing sign language for a telecast, pitching clients. A little hand gesture here or there isn’t bad, but if you’ve got someone who does it habitually, beware.

8. Too Weak of a Handshake

This is the opposite problem as the steroid grip.

Although the too strong handshake is a slight problem, a much higher percentage (22%) of hiring managers said they have a bigger problem with a weak handshake. No one likes to kick off an introduction with a dead fish handshake. You know what we’re talking about. You go for a firm grip and you get a wishy-washy, limp handshake in return. While it’s possible to overcompensate on the shake, you don’t want someone who is seen as weak, either.

7. Playing With Hair/Touching Face

Don’t hire the incessant hair-twiddlers.

According to the survey, one-quarter of all hiring managers polled said they are bothered by candidates who constantly play with their hair or touch their faces. While it’s understandable this is likely a nervous habit, that’s just not going to fly. If someone is constantly fiddling with their hair or touching their face, they come off as either distracted, nervous, or disinterested — none of which bodes well for their future employment. If you’re talking with someone about your possible investment in them for the long-term, the least they can do is seem like they’re paying attention.

6. Crossing Their Arms

Twenty-six percent of hiring managers said crossed arms was the biggest body language pet peeve.

The bottom line is candidates with crossed arms are sending off a vibe of defiance, defensiveness, and resistance. People who do this in interviews are literally guarding themselves against you and the questions you’re asking. Considering the ultimate goal is a partnership in which a certain amount of trust is involved, it’s not advantageous to enter into an employer-employee relationship with someone who is standoffish right from jump street.

5. Too Much Fidgeting

There’s just something about people who constantly fidget that makes you shake your head.

So says 29% of those surveyed about people who never stop fidgeting in their seats during job interviews, according to the survey. It makes sense when you think about it because someone who fidgets (absent some kind of medical condition) just seems naturally uncomfortable. Confident people are able to face you and have a back and forth, uninterrupted by shifting around in their seat, bouncing their legs, or tapping their fingernails on the desk the whole time. If this is a candidate who is going to have to present to clients or other team members, there’s no way you can hire someone who can’t convey a sense of confidence.

4. Bad Posture

There’s a reason moms the world over yell “SIT UP STRAIGHT!” at their offspring.

First impressions matter, especially when your job is to win over a room of people. And whether anyone likes it or not, how you present yourself matters just as much as what you say. That’s probably why 30% of hiring managers listed bad posture as their biggest pet peeve during job interviews. If you have a candidate who sits up straight and is focused on you, that’s going to go over a lot better than someone slumped over with hunched shoulders and sending out an attitude of defeat. Think more Tigger and less Eeyore.

3. Playing With Something on the Table

This one is a little surprising, mainly because what the heck are these candidates playing with instead of listening intently to the person interviewing them?

Yet one-third of hiring managers surveyed said they are most put off by interviewees who play with whatever object is on the table in front of them during the job interview. One person surveyed said one individual who was interviewed laid out 50 pens on the table prior to the start of the interview and began playing with them. Another said the candidate in question was completely preoccupied with the duffel bag he brought to the interview, which turned out to have a live dog in it. The bottom line is don’t hire someone who can’t focus his/her attention on the matter at hand if a shiny object is within reach.

2. No Smiling


It seems so easy. So natural. So expected. After all, this person is meeting you for the first time and is trying to impress you enough to convince you to hire him/her. Yet 36% of people surveyed said a lack of a smile during the job interview was the biggest red flag.

How hard is it to smile? Even if they don’t really mean it, it’s the polite thing to do. It’s common courtesy and basic manners. So if the person you’re interviewing can’t even muster up the basic civilities most kindergarten students have, it’s probably a good idea to pass and move on to someone a little more cordial.

1. No Eye Contact

This one should come as no surprise.

The number one complaint (by far) from hiring managers surveyed is lack of eye contact. A whopping 65% of respondents said habitually avoiding eye contact during job interviews is the number one red flag, and the one behavior that leads to not moving ahead with the hiring process. It’s only polite to look at someone when you’re talking to them. Failure to do so is not only rude, it’s indicative of someone who isn’t even comfortable enough to hold the gaze of a peer or client, nevermind interacting with them in order to close a deal.

If a person can’t even look you in the eye, it might be best not to make an offer.


Once you’ve weeded out all the candidates who don’t make eye contact and fidget too much, you’ll make one of them an offer.

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