If the eyes are the window to the soul, they're also the key to doing well in a job interview.
In a new survey distributed by CollegeAtlas.org, more than two-thirds of hiring managers said the failure to make eye contact is the most common nonverbal mistake that applicants make.
This is a particularly important message for many young people, minorities and people from some foreign backgrounds. Because of inexperience, lack of confidence or being raised in a culture that doesn't encourage direct facial contact, it's more difficult for some people to compete on equal footing.
Establishing eye contact builds essential rapport. But eye contact isn't the only must-have attribute. Other interview killers are the failure to smile, bad posture, inappropriate clothing, too much fidgeting, a weak handshake, playing with hair or face, or arms crossed over the chest.
About one-third of the more than 2,000 managers responded that they know within 90 seconds whether they intend to hire someone. That means opinions are formed before any substantive job-related question is asked.
Of course, it's important for applicants to know something about the company and the job. It's important to speak well, using good grammar, appropriate words and a clear and confident voice. And, above all, it's crucial to have the right skills or experience for the specific job.
But, quite candidly, two-thirds of the hiring managers surveyed said clothes and appearance alone can be the deciding factor between two similar candidates. It never hurts to dress a bit more nicely than the norm for existing workers in the target job. But don't do super-trendy or neon-flashy — a turnoff for 70 percent of the hirers.
Above all, interviewers want applicants to be likable, to show warmth and personality, and not to waste time complaining about anything.