The Expert’s Guide to Decoding Body Language in an Interview

The Expert's Guide to Decoding Body Language in an Interview

A candidate’s nonverbal communication – AKA body language – says just as much about them as their verbal statements during an interview. You should begin to observe body language the moment a prospective hire enters the room.

What signals should you watch for as you narrow down your selection?

Matching & Mirroring

Often, the nonverbal signs you already know to look for – a smile, a firm handshake, good posture and eye contact – are choreographed so a candidate makes the right first impression. Or, they may be matching and mirroring your body language.

  • Matching and mirroring can work both ways. It tends to occur as natural rapport is built between two people. But be careful. It also could be rehearsed and it may not provide an accurate picture of how an individual behaves in real-life situations.
  • Don’t allow body language to create a false sense of trust or likeability. Reading a person’s nonverbals without knowing their everyday, or baseline, behavior may tell you how they’re feeling in the moment, but are not necessarily indicative of their performance.

The Walkabout Test

To get a glimpse of that real-life behavior, take your candidate for a walk through the office or work area. Continue to observe their body language as they interact with others. Here’s where you can see and hear them unchoreographed.

  • Introduce them to employees at different organizational levels. How do they react in each situation? Do they show interest and ask questions? How quickly and naturally do they smile? Do they make eye contact – and for how long?
  • This can be the most telling part of the interview. Does the candidate appear comfortable and engage in rapport-building skills? Do they project the traits and temperament required for the job?

Nervousness & Anxiety

Don’t judge prospective hires based solely on body language. While some people may have excellent on-the-job skills, they might have trouble portraying this due to nervousness or anxiety during their interview.

  • Anxiety-induced rapid breathing can cause unflattering body language. It may manifest as twitches and fidgets, stumbling for words, sweaty palms, stiff or jerky gestures, rapid eye movement or a high-pitched voice. Try to look beyond it and help the candidate relax.

Look for True Feelings in the Face

If you want to learn a person’s true feelings or emotions, it’s best to observe their face.

  • Check for responsiveness. For instance, if you were to say, “This position requires travel,” see if they smile before or after they respond. If it’s before, they most likely really feel that way. If it’s after, you should probably rethink their sincerity.
  • Accurately read their level of eye contact. While it’s important for a candidate to be confident and look their interviewer in the eye, locking eyes for an extended period of time may be a sign of aggression.

The certified recruiters at Contemporary Personnel Staffing & Professionals Incorporated can work with you to develop a customized hiring and workforce development plan unique to your organization and its needs. Contact us today at (315) 457-2500 or to learn more about our process or schedule a meeting.

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