7 body language mistakes candidates make in job interviews

Interviews can affect the nerves for even the most confident job seekers, leading to nervous tics or odd body language. To make a good impression and land your dream job, you'll need to learn to overcome these common body language mistakes.

body language mistakes
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Body language mistakes candidates make in job interviews

Body language is just as important as your skills, and it's crucial to make a good impression on your recruiter or hiring manager in the interview. Recently, Careerbuilder conducted a survey of over 2,100 hiring and human resource managers to find the most unbelievable interview stories and to discover what body language mistakes candidates make in the interview process.

According to the study, some candidates make a first impression that recruiters will never forget. For example, a candidate who "brought about 50 ink pens to the interview and proceeded to spread them out on the table." Or another candidate who was fidgeting with a duffel bag, only for it to be revealed that he had a dog inside the bag. And you will probably never overshadow the one candidate who inquired about everyone's salary or the one who attempted to Google the answer to an interview question in the middle of the interview.

Interview horror stories aside, there are more subtle mistakes that anyone can make in the interview process. Here are the biggest body language mistakes respondents said that candidates made during their interviews.

Make eye contact
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Make eye contact

Overwhelmingly the study found that avoiding eye contact is the biggest body language faux pas you can make in the interview; 65 percent of respondents said that candidates often failed to make eye contact during an interview. Eye contact can be awkward for some, but it's a crucial obstacle to overcome if you want to have a successful interview. Hiring managers and recruiters aren't just looking to see if you have the right skills -- they've already read your resume. Remember that an interview is just as much about your personality as it is about your qualifications, so when it comes to landing your dream job, a little eye contact can go just as far as your certification in IT management.

Remember to smile
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Remember to smile

Heading into your interview, you probably have a lot on your mind, but you shouldn't let it show all over your face. Relax your expression, smile and remember that you're making a very important first impression. You want to be personable in the interview because hiring manager and recruiters want to know that you'll make a good fit on the team and be a positive addition to a work environment. Someone with a bad attitude and all the right skills can easily be passed over for someone with a good attitude but less qualifications.

Sit up straight
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Sit up straight

You might have thought you grew out of mom's reminders to sit up straight, but it turns out what you thought was nagging, is actually sound job seeking advice. According to the survey, 30 percent of hiring managers and recruiters cited bad posture as a major body language mistake in interviews. Slouching or slumping down in your seat might be comfortable, but it's certainly not professional. Sit up straight to exude confidence and professionalism to your hiring manager or recruiter.

Don't fidget
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Don't fidget

Interviews can be awkward, and when you're nervous, you might find yourself mindlessly playing with items around you or wiggling your foot under the table to ease your nerves. But these seemingly innocuous nervous tics might be off-putting to a hiring manager or recruiter. The survey found that 33 percent said a candidate spent too much time playing with items on the table, while 29 percent said candidates fidgeted too much in their seats. Try to sit still and ignore the temptation to click your pen, tap your foot or rifle through the stack of resumes you brought along with you.

Mind your body language
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Mind your body language

When you're nervous, it makes sense that your body language might become over exaggerated. But try to keep in mind that you are making a first impression, so you want to keep the hand gestures and nervous habits to a minimum. Of those polled, 25 percent said candidates touched their face or played with their hair too much, while 11 percent said candidates used too many hand gestures. You also want to keep your arms and hands in a neutral position; 26 percent of respondents said a big mistake candidates make is crossing their arms over their chest. Try to keep your hands somewhere neutral, like in your lap or resting on the table. But also remember to try to keep your body language natural; you aren't a robot. So that means if your hair is in your face, by all means push it out of your eyes and if you get an itch on your nose that you can't ignore, go ahead and scratch discreetly.

Find a happy medium with your handshake
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Find a happy medium with your handshake

You've probably been told about the importance of having a firm and strong handshake at some point in your life. And the study supports this, with 22 percent saying that oftentimes a candidate greets the hiring manager or recruiter with a weak handshake. But you want to avoid overcompensating for a flimsy grip with a bone-breaking handshake. Of those surveyed, 7 percent noted that a candidate had a handshake that was too strong. Keep that in mind when you shake hands with your recruiter or hiring manager; you certainly don't want to have a limp grip, but you don't want to crush their hand either.

How to avoid mistakes
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How to avoid mistakes

Some of these body language mistakes might seem difficult to overcome, especially if you're prone to unconscious behaviors like tapping a pen or wiggling your foot when you're nervous. But Careerbuilder does offer some advice for having a successful interview. Rehearsing is key; if you are rusty and haven't interviewed in a while, ask a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview with you and to give honest feedback.

Executive resume writer and career strategist Donald Burns, offers this advice: "Record a video of yourself conducting a mock interview. Doing this will help you identify behavior like crossing your arms, slumping your shoulders or glancing at your mobile device. Seeing those tendencies for yourself makes it easier to accept and modify."

Be prepared and know your elevator pitch
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Be prepared and know your elevator pitch

Being unprepared can throw anyone off their game. Knowing your value-add and having plenty of information about the company and its mission will make you feel more confident. That means developing your "elevator pitch," which is a 30-second summary of why you are good for the job.

You might never deliver this pitch, but if you can explain why you're right for the job in 30 seconds, you'll definitely be able to do the same in a full hour interview. And while you're figuring out why you're a good fit for the job, you should also research the company. That way you will be prepared to show that you are just as interested in working for the company as they are in hiring you. Finally, just relax; take some deep breaths and work to alleviate any nerves and anxiety you have so you can go into your interview with confidence.