Monday, June 14, 2010

Bad Body Language That Can Hurt Your Job Interview

Just when you thought you'd heard it all about job interviewing, from what to wear to how to answer interview questions, along comes a book that discusses something new: the impact of good (and bad) body language in the job interview.

“The ABCs of image – appearance, behavior and communication – are key to standing out in a crowd and landing a job during these tough economic times,” says Lizandra Vega, author of The Image of Success: Make a Great Impression and Land the Job You Want.

As a New York executive recruiter and image coach, Lizandra knows a thing or two about job interviews. She has successfully guided thousands of job candidates through the interview process during various stages of their careers.

Take a look at her following two videos. Then read my interview with Lizandra (below) in which she tells us about:
  • Three body-language no-no's;
  • Body language for phone interviews; and
  • How to respond to negative body language from the interviewer.

    Susan Ireland's Interview with Lizandra Vega

    What are the top three no-no's every job seeker should know about his or her body language during a job interview?
    Avoid these three negative cues that could cost you the job offer:

    Barrier cues: Don't create barriers between you and the interviewer by folding your arms or crossing your legs while sitting or standing. Doing so will give the recruiter the impression that you have a negative or defensive attitude; they can also come across as showing insecurity and fear.

    Dominant cues: Don't come across as overbearing, cocky or domineering. Spreading your legs while sitting, placing your hands on your hips, and clasping hands behind your head or neck are all off-putting.

    Provocative cues: Some of the most innocent gestures may be construed as provocative, intimate or sexual, such as: pen fondling or chewing, hair tousling, lip licking, ring fondling, and winking.

    Many job interviews are conducted by phone. What body language advice do you have for phone interviews?
    Even though your phone interviewer can't see you, he/she will develop a sense of your professionalism by how you come across on the phone. Here are three ways you can use your body language to make a good impression while on the phone:

    Stand or sit with good posture, as it supports proper breathing and voice control.

    Use an open-mouth smile while talking so your words sound warm and genuine.

    Keep your hands away from your mouth and mouth piece so that you don’t sound muffled, and avoid breaking the flow of the conversations.

    What should a job seeker do if she notices her interviewer is using negative body language?
    If an interviewer is not focusing his/her gaze on you because he/she may be wrapped up in other thoughts, you may redirect the attention toward yourself by leaning forward, nodding your head, or adjusting the direction of your chair to a position where you connect with his/her gaze.

    When an interviewer stands up at the end of an interview, use this as your cue to stand up and realize that the interview is over. Don’t overstay your welcome.

    If an interviewer seems inhospitable or hostile (let's say he/she folds his arms or seems to be scowling), you may counter this by smiling and keeping your body in a relaxed and neutral position.

    Lizandra Vega is the author of The Image of Success: Make a Great Impression and Land The Job You Want, (AMACOM Books, May 2010). Cofounder and managing partner of Manhattan-based boutique staffing firm Perennial Resources International (PRI), she is also a certified image coach. She lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband and two children. Please visit Lizandra's website, befriend her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

    Disclaimer: Susan Ireland's Job Lounge does not gain from book sales that result from this blog post.


    Anonymous said...

    These are EXCELLENT suggestions - as an Interviewer, if a candidate followed all of these recommendations, he or she would make a very good impression.

    Cathy Peters said...

    I liked the tips on how to counter negative cues from the interviewer...I've never thought about that before.
    Speaking of negative cues - are there certain colors of clothing/suits to avoid during the interview process that would send a bad signal?

    Anonymous said...

    I always talk with my hands. Do you have suggestions on what I can do with my hands -- short of sitting on them -- so I might control them?

    Lizandra Vega said...

    Red can sometimes be the culprit of sending a negative signal, depending on how one chooses to wear it during an interview. For instance, red lipstick, red nail polish, or red stiletto shoes are "off color" in my book. Red ties and scarves can be too aggressive for an initial interview. On the other hand, pink comes across as fragile,overly romantic, and, feminine. A Black suit may also be too overpowering during a first interview.

    Susan Ireland said...

    What are good colors to wear to an interview?

    Lizandra Vega said...

    Navy is a safe and universal interviewing hue. It is the most enterprising color and it looks great with every skin, hair and eye color. To keep it conservative for financial colors, you can pair it with monochromatic colors within the blue family:

    Tints: blue+white
    Shades: blue+black
    Tones: blue+ gray

    For creative companies where you want to add pizzazz to navy you may pair it with its complementary color, orange (opposite color to blue on the color wheel), or analogous (colors that sit next to blue)such as blue-green and blue-violet.

    Anonymous said...


    I am afraid that the company I currently work for will find out that I am looking for a new opportunity. How do you think I can best combat that during my search process?

    Lizandra Vega said...

    It's difficult to look for a job when you are employed. Therefore, you must be extra careful in dealing with your job search, so as not to jeopardize your present situation. Try these suggestions in order to handle your job search in a discreet manner:

    1. Request to schedule your interviews before and after work hours or even on a Saturday morning.
    2. Carry your interview attire in the car and change in a public restroom before you arrive at your interview. If you are seeking a job in a large city where you wouldn't drive to your interview, arrange to leave your suit at a nearby cleaners or alterations store, and change at the store.
    3. Continue to be as loyal and enthusiastic as you were when you first took the job. Lack of interest or boredom is usually a huge sign that an employee is looking for a new opportunity.

    Chicago Pinot said...

    Is it OK to leave my suit jacket open for an interview or is it preferred that I button it? FYI all of my suits have two buttons.

    If you can see my avatar when I post this, I would love to get your opinion on this outfit!


    Lizandra Vega said...

    Hi there,
    When you are sitting down during an interview, it is perfectly fine to unbutton your suit jacket for practicality and comfort. When you are standing up, close one of the two buttons on your classic suit jacket as it will give you a more polished look.