Body Language

5 Ways Body Language Can Cost You The Job


What your body conveys can tell far more about your feelings than you suspect. How you stand, your eye contact (or lack thereof), and the position of your hands, among other things send a message. Your body language can cost you the job if you establish the wrong tone. Don’t let that cost you the job!

Most of the time, you have no idea you are giving off these signals. They are quite automatic. Oftentimes you have no idea that you are conveying what you are thinking in your body language. You can exhibit some control over negative body language with improved self-awareness and practice.

Here are some negative gestures to think about and avoid:

1. Crossing Your Arms In Front Of You

This signals that you are resistant to ideas and not open to others’ opinions. When speaking with people – especially during an interview keep your hands in your lap. When standing, keep hands at your sides.

2. Looking Down When Speaking

Looking down is a sign that you are disinterested or feel inferior. Make sure you maintain eye contact without staring. This will let the other person subliminally know that you are interested in what they have to say. If the eyes are the window of the soul, looking at someone when you are talking to them is a strong indicator that you are engaged. Eye contact is good; staring is creepy!

3. Checking Your Watch

There is nothing that screams boredom more than the continuous checking of the time. Do not look at your watch when speaking with someone. You want to convey continued interest in what they are saying. The exchange of information should be an engaging one – not a situation where you appear to be focused on something else.

4. False Smiling

A smile is one of the very best ways to communicate sincerity and a friendly, approachable demeanor. Don’t force a smile or smile the entire time. That will look odd and raise questions in the mind of the person you are interacting with. A natural smile will resonate during the interview.  A genuine smile involves the entire face – a fake forced smile uses only the mouth – and studies indicate that people are very good at seeing the differences.

5. Poor Posture

Standing up straight with your shoulders back displays confidence and self-assuredness. Slouching immediately makes you look smaller and is indicative of lack of self-confidence. Your posture serves to deliver a clear and positive message about how you should be treated. Leave a lasting positive impression with good posture.

Avoid inappropriate body language and learn how to identify it in others. Make sure you prepare and feel good about yourself to feel good about your interactions with those you know as well as people you are meeting for the first time.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Debra Wheatman

Debra Wheatman, president of Careers Done Write, is globally recognized as an expert in advanced career search techniques. She helps clients obtain highly desired interviews for competitive positions.


  1. All five of the tips on body language seemed like nor brainers to me. All of these things are what a country kid learns early in life along with looking a person in the eye, saying “yes sir” and “is their anything I can do to help?”

  2. Cultural nuances must also be taken into account. In some societies looking down is a sign of respect. And as another has commented, looking down can also indicate a primarily kinaesthetic person accessing thoughts or memories. While body language can tell us a great deal and constitutes over two-thirds of the total messages we convey, we must nevertheless be careful of oversimplifications and biases.

  3. As someone who has studied body language since mid 1970’s I have learned to read as well as fool people with this technique. Body position is not written in stone, just a part of the total package.

  4. As a career coach, I teach body language as an important part of networking and interviewing. I agree wholeheartedly with #3 and #4, but I think the author makes #1, #2, and #5 too brief.

    #1 – Crossed arms can also mean problem solver, depending on the context.
    #2 – It’s unclear whether the candidate is “[l]ooking down when speaking” or listening to “what they have to say.” Yes, make good eye contact, but taking notes (looking down) does “convey continued interest in what they are saying.” Looking down can also indicate a kinesthetic learner. Too much eye contact can be intimidating. Again, context.
    #5 – I agree that posture is crucial. “Standing up straight with your shoulders back” is spot on advice . . . when standing up. I’d like to see this article include comments about posture when sitting down.

    Learning to identify body language in others is great advice and particularly useful when negotiating salary.

  5. Usually we take decisions about one person from the first five to ten minutes of the interview.Respect,smile,kind,look at the person.
    Plural speaking,use words like thanks,please.Calm and pleasant presence.Never interrupt.Crossing your arms sometimes mean defence.Thanks,

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