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This surprisingly common virtual interview mistake can cost you the job, according to new research

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There's a lot to love about virtual interviews, but there's also a lot to loathe — spotty internet connection, unintentional interruptions and awkward camera placements can all create an uncomfortable atmosphere. 

While some virtual interview mistakes are harmless, others can make a bad first impression, or even cost you the job. 

Between August and September, TopResume asked 330 U.S. hiring managers, recruiters and HR professionals to rank the worst offenses a candidate can commit during a virtual interview. 

The number one virtual interview deal-breaker that could cost you the job? "Avoiding eye contact or staring into space," according to the hiring experts interviewed for the report. 

Direct eye contact in an interview is a critical skill to nail because it demonstrates professionalism, establishes trust and is polite, Jeff Hyman, the CEO of Recruit Rockstars, explains. "We are inherently hardwired to believe that shifty-eyed people are lying or hiding something, even if they're just nervous," he says. 

Practice makes perfect

It might feel unnatural to stare directly into the camera — but practicing with a friend on a video conferencing platform like Zoom or Microsoft Teams ahead of time can help you make sure you're looking at the right spot, Amanda Augustine, a career expert at TopResume, says, as can lining up the interviewer's video box right under your computer's camera at the start of the call.

"Testing out your video set-up ahead of time is so important," she says. If a friend can spare five minutes to hop on a video call and confirm your eye contact looks solid, Augustine recommends taking a Post-It and sticking it on the spot your friend recommends to look at on your computer screen to remind yourself where you should be looking when it's time for the interview.

Being intentional with your body language during a virtual interview can also set you apart from other candidates, Augustine adds: leaning forward, smiling and nodding your head are all affirmative actions that show you're "engaged, connected and excited" about the conversation, she says.

But direct eye contact isn't possible for everyone

Some candidates, however, might have disabilities or conditions that could prevent them from holding direct eye contact with an interviewer, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or  attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), LaShawn Davis, a human resources consultant, points out. 

She encourages hiring managers not to automatically conclude that a candidate is disengaged or uninterested if they aren't making direct eye contact during an interview, as not everyone is comfortable disclosing their health details or requesting an accommodation in a job application.  

"As a manager, it's important that we're mindful of people's different backgrounds as we look to grow diverse work environments," Davis says. "We should focus less on the physical attributes and body language of a person and more on how well they are responding to your questions and meet the expectations of the role."

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Check out:

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