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Job interview: Body language mistakes you're likely making

(MoneyWatch) Heading into an important job interview can feel a little like going to battle. And you might prepare for it in the same way -- researching your "opponent" and then taking an upright "power" stance once you enter. Indeed, it's all about projecting an image of strength and competence. "Nobody walks into a job interview with the intention of being lazy, standoffish, or unlikeable," says Kelly Decker, president of consulting firm Decker Communications. But even a stellar resume can leave you looking lackluster. "When it comes to getting the job it's less about how accomplished you actually are -- and more about how you are perceived." Here are 5 mistakes most candidates make with body language:

Hunching over

In short, you'll look the opposite of enthused. "Whether seated in a chair or standing, many job seekers get too casual -- hunching, slumping or leaning to one side -- and the message gets sent to your hiring manager is that you are not interested in the job," says Decker. "Or worse, you send the message that you're not capable."

Crossing your arms

This move has the same effect as hunching over, except it repels people even more effectively. "Crossing your arms is perceived as standoffish, defensive and even under-confident," says Decker. Instead, she says to "Pretend there is a string from the ceiling to the center of your head, helping pull you up straight -- and keep your shoulders down your back."

Keeping your hands in your lap

You don't want to "talk with your hands" the entire interview, but keeping your hands politely placed in your lap can make you look timid. "Most interviews are seated. If there is a table in front of you, rest your hands on top of the table so that you can more easily gesture and share your energy and enthusiasm," suggests Decker.


When you're focusing on answering a question, it's easy to frown, but this move can project a variety of negative connotations. "The smile is the gatekeeper to likeability," says Decker. If the hiring manager likes you, they'll want to keep you around -- so crack a genuine smile when you can.

Avoiding eye contact

Eye contact is sometimes the key to connecting with an interviewer, and not making it is a lost opportunity. Make a point in looking everyone you meet in the eye. And try not to be rattled by a group interview, even if it's impromptu. "It's even more critical that you share the love and look at all of the people in the room. Spend five to seven seconds at a time making eye contact with each person," says Decker.