Episode #49 – Body Language Mistakes to Never Make in the Interview

Sharita: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, search consultant Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both companies and job seekers in the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary organizations acquire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary Professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

 

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about body language mistakes to not make during the face-to-face interview. Welcome, Stacy. Thank you for joining us.

 

Stacy: Hello, Sharita. I’m glad to be here today.

 

Sharita: As we’ve discussed before, the face-to-face interview is one of the most important parts of the hiring process. Body language is a part of the interview that people sometimes forget, is that correct?

 

Stacy: That’s right. People are so focused on what they should be saying and how they should be asking questions that they forget about what they look like when they’re talking and answering those questions. They don’t understand that what they look like is nearly as important as what they say.

 

Sharita: So let’s dive right in. What are some of the top body language mistakes to never make during an interview?

 

Stacy: As you might imagine, there are a number of them! I’m going to start roughly at the beginning of the interview and work my way through to the end. The first mistake is not making eye contact with people when you meet them. This is for everyone, including the receptionist, and anyone else with whom you come into contact. When you don’t make eye contact, it’s assumed that you’re lacking confidence. Animal Health Employers and Veterinary Employers do not want to hire people who lack confidence.

 

Our next mistake goes hand-in-hand with that one, and that’s a bit of a joke because that mistake is a weak handshake. Now, I’m not saying that you should try to break the hand of the other person, but your grip should be firm. This goes for women, as well. Make sure that your handshake is firm and that you look the person in the eye when you shake their hand. This will go a long way toward impressing the people who are interviewing you right off the bat, and as we all know, first impressions are crucial in an interview.

 

This next mistake is also related to the first two, and that’s invading personal space. There was an episode on the Seinfeld show many years ago about somebody who was labeled as a “close talker.” You might have met someone like this in your life. It’s a person who, for whatever reason, stands too close to you when they speak. They might not even know that they’re doing it, but they’re invading your personal space and making you feel uncomfortable. You don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable during the interview. That’s a great way to NOT get an offer.

 

Sharita: I imagine that you’ve experienced examples of all of these during your career as an Animal Recruiter and Veterinary Recruiter.

 

Stacy: Oh, I have. In fact, as an example of the invading personal space mistake, I’ve had candidates who placed things on the interviewer’s desk. One candidate put their elbows on the interviewer’s desk. That’s not “breaking the ice.” That’s invading personal space. People do not like having their personal space invaded, especially when they don’t even know the person who is doing the invading.

 

Sharita: What’s our next body language mistake?

 

Stacy: The next one is a big no-no. Everybody knows that they shouldn’t do it, but a lot of people can’t seem to stop. That mistake is slouching in your seat.

 

Sharita: Poor posture seems to be a habit that a lot of people can’t break out of.

 

Stacy: That is absolutely right. But you absolutely must have proper posture and not slouch during a job interview. That sends the wrong message on a number of different levels. First, it makes you look as though you’re not really interested in the position. You’re supposed to be conveying your excitement about the job, not your apparent disinterest. Second, it makes you look lazy and lethargic. Employers want to hire people who appear energetic and dynamic.

 

Another habit is crossing your arms or your legs in front of the interviewers. This is considered to be confrontational non-verbal behaviors, especially the crossing of your arms. This typically indicates that you don’t agree with what the other person is saying or that you’re only tolerating what they’re saying until you have the opportunity to speak. If either one of these is a habit of yours, be sure to break the habit once you’re in the interview. If you have to, practice with other people prior to the interview. Have them ask interview questions while you sit in a chair, not crossing your arms or your legs. Sit up straight, look attentive, and be engaging.

 

Sharita: Stacy, that all makes perfect sense. What do we have next?

 

Stacy: Our next mistake is having a nervous gesture or tic. These come in a lot of different forms. For example, some people bite their nails. Other people play with their hair. The problem with these tics, other than the fact they exist, is that people are rarely aware of the behavior. It’s an automatic act or habit that they do when they’re nervous. In an interview situation, though, that nervous tic will take attention away from what the candidate should really be doing, which is conveying to the interviewers the potential value that they could bring to the organization. In addition, a nervous tic or habit can also be seen as another sign of a lack of confidence.

 

A related mistake is using excessive hand gestures. As you surely know, some people like to “talk with their hands.” That means they’re comfortable unless they’re making some sort of hand gestures while they speak. While this is okay to a certain extent, you can’t let it get out of control. That’s because it can become distracting, and you don’t want to distract the hiring manager from your candidacy. They should be thinking about what a great employee you might be, not the fact that you’re flailing your arms every time you answer a question.

 

We started our list of mistakes with a certain body part. Now we’re going to end our list by returning to the same body part.

 

Sharita: What would that be?

 

Stacy: The eyes! Our first mistake involved not making adequate eye contact or looking away when you meet people for the first time. Our next three mistakes also involve the eyeballs.

 

First, you should never roll your eyes during the interview. Even if it’s a harmless gesture or you’re discussing a funny subject or it feels like it would not be taken the wrong way, avoid doing this. You never want the people interviewing you to feel as though you’re rolling your eyes at them, for any reason.

 

Second, never get caught looking at the clock. Even if it happens accidentally, that can make it look like you’re eager for the interview to be over. That’s not the impression you want to give.

 

Sharita: But people really don’t look at clocks anymore. They just look at their cell phone to see what time it is.

 

Stacy: Yes, and that is the third mistake that involves the eyeballs! Do NOT look at your phone during the interview. Don’t look at it while you’re waiting for the interview to begin, and definitely do not look at it during any point in the interview. In fact, turn your phone off so that it doesn’t make any noise. Putting the phone on vibrate is not enough. A vibrating noise could prove to be a distraction, and as we’ve emphasized numerous times, you do not want to provide a distraction of any kind.

 

Sharita: When it comes to habits, not looking at your phone might be the toughest one of all to break.

 

Stacy: Yes, I would agree with that, and it’s especially the case with the younger generation. There are older people in the workforce who have been in interviews when smartphones had not yet been invented, so they have experience with such a thing. However, younger candidates do not. Looking at your phone during the interview is a sign of disrespect. It’s telling the other people in the room that what’s on your phone is more important than what’s happening during the interview.

 

Sharita: Stacy, now that we’ve discussed the body language mistakes to avoid, what are the things that candidates should do in the interview when it comes to body language?

 

Stacy: As I mentioned earlier, you want to look people in the eye and have a firm handshake. You should also sit up straight and lean forward slightly to show that you’re engaged in the conversation. Also, use a minimum of hand gestures and speak loudly so that everyone can hear what you’re saying. Last but not least, smile as often as you can. Smiling is one of the most important things that you can do in the interview in terms of body language.

 

First of all, it conveys the message that you’re happy to be part of the interview. Not only that, but smiling can also be contagious. If you start doing it, then other people in the interview might start doing it. After the interview is over, the hiring manager will associate you with smiling and happiness, and that’s a body language image that you want to leave behind. In short, you want to be energetic, enthusiastic, and engaging with everybody you meet for the duration of the meeting.

 

Sharita: Stacy, thanks so much for all of this great information today. I’m sure our listeners found it to be very informative and they’ll put it to use during their next interview.

 

Stacy: Thank you, Sharita. I look forward to our next podcast!