Most people are naturally attuned to non-verbal cues, regardless of whether they are aware of it or not. This means that while many interviewers might assume they are making objective decisions based solely on the responses that they receive to their questions, this is actually often not the case.
However, this is not to say that tapping into body language during the interview process is a bad thing. In fact, a candidate’s body language can often reveal a lot more than their verbal cues alone. That said, it is important for interviewers to be able to know and recognize when they are relying on body language to form an overall impression, so they can account for their own decision-making process in a more concrete and tangible manner.
The thing that is especially important to understand here is that while body language can sometimes provide useful insight, it can also be deceptive. Some people are prone to manifest their nervous reactions more strongly on their bodies than others, and interviews can often discount an otherwise great candidate if they rely strictly on body language alone.
So, while this article is going to clarify some common body language signs and how to read them during an interview, it is also important to take this information with a grain of salt. Some candidates might get especially nervous during an interview, and it doesn’t mean they won’t be an excellent fit for the job. However, body language is generally reflective of how people actually feel, and thus, it is a very useful factor for an interviewer to know how to understand and interpret.
That said, it is helpful to know and understand some basic body language signs and what they mean to get a more accurate picture of what to expect from a candidate, and these are some of the common signs that an interviewer wants to be aware of.
Eye contact is one of those basics that almost any interviewer will be looking for, but the way a person makes eye contact can also betray a lot in terms of how confident they are in general, not to mention how honest they might be about what they are saying.
Obviously, when somebody who was making eye contact averts their eyes, especially in the case of a question that might be difficult to answer, this is not a good sign and is often taken as a warning that they might not be telling the truth. Focusing on an object in the distance rather than meeting a person in the eye can also betray a lack of confidence.
However, keep in mind that there are several reasons that people may not make eye contact. A lot of people are just not good at making eye contact or tend to feel nervous in social situations, and depending on the job description, this might not be a big deal. People also naturally look away when they are trying to recall something or when they are thinking, and this can often be falsely interpreted. In fact, people who are lying will often make more eye contact. In addition, there are many different cultural norms that govern eye contact, so it is often not a reliable factor to rely on when interviewing in response to, say, immigration ads.
So basically, sometimes the eyes lie, and sometimes they don’t. It is definitely important to pay attention to how much eye contact a person is making during an interview, but it definitely need not be the entire basis of a decision.
Ever heard the saying that goes “Stand with your head held high?”
A straight, upright posture shows confidence, and this is always a great attribute to look for in a potential candidate. While some people may certainly just slouch when they are nervous, it still betrays a lot in terms of their attitude when facing a challenge, so it is generally a good idea to seek out the kind of person who is at least aware enough to put in the effort to sit up straight during such an important moment as a job interview.
Another thing to look for in terms of posture is what direction a person is leaning. Leaning forward is generally considered to be positive body language in that it shows genuine interest and an openness to engage. However, there is also definitely such a thing as leaning in too close, and if the interviewer notices feeling like their personal space is being invaded, this probably betrays a lack of boundaries in regards to the candidate, and this is definitely not a good sign. Likewise, leaning backward can often be interpreted as a sign of defensiveness, especially if they do so suddenly after, say, being asked a difficult question or something in regards to their past performance.
It is likewise a good sign if a person moves their shoulders when speaking. Because shoulders are generally used in communication to help people convey emotions, slight shoulder movements indicate that a person is speaking from an emotionally authentic perspective.
Before getting into arm gestures, it bears noting that the way a person shakes hands is another factor that interviewers tend to scrutinize, and while a handshake can indeed be telling, there are limitations.
Generally speaking, a weaker handshake betrays a lack of confidence, while an overly strong handshake might belie an aggressive or controlling personality. Keep in mind that there are also cultural differences in terms of the way people shake hands, and anybody interviewing in response to immigration labor advertising will definitely want to keep this in mind.
Generally speaking though, arm movements and gestures can definitely be a pretty accurate indicator of how people express themselves. Too much movement might indicate a propensity for over-reactivity, while finger-pointing can cross the line from assertive to downright aggressive.
Playing with hair, touching the face, and generally fiddling is a sign of discomfort, and while this discomfort could very well be brought on by the interview context itself, it could also indicate a person is lying. Rubbing the neck is a way of self-soothing and could be another warning that a person might be acting deceptively.
Crossing the arms is another factor that people tend to put a lot of weight on, and while it certainly does indicate a level of defensiveness, it is also perfectly normal to feel a bit guarded when meeting somebody new. As long as a person eventually uncrosses their arms during an interview, it is probably not a huge red flag.
Body language is generally a pretty accurate indicator of how a person feels during the interview, but what is never for certain is what is making them feel that way.
After all, people tend to get nervous during an interview, and they might not have to deal with high-pressure situations a lot in the job they are interviewing for, so making a decision based solely on body language is generally not the best approach.
In addition, cultural differences also account for differences in body language, so anybody looking to fill the type of position where they might consider sponsoring a foreign national and posting PERM recruitment ads in the future will definitely want to keep this in mind.
Basically, body language matters, but it isn’t everything, so pay attention, but keep other factors in mind as well.