How interviewers interpret your body language
Experts say that at least 55% of the message we communicate is non-verbal, delivered through our body language. In a job interview, because we have researched and practiced our conversation, we like to think that our words count for a larger than usual proportion of the message that we communicate. But an astute interviewer will be carefully watching what you do with your hands, your eyes, your legs and yes, even your facial muscles.
To gain an advantage in an interview pay close attention to how the interviewer uses their own body to communicate unspoken hints or messages to you. And of course stay aware of how you are unconsciously transmitting unspoken thoughts.
As an interviewee:
- Avoid sighing or yawning, both indicate that you are bored. When you sigh at the end of a statement about something that didn’t work for you in your career it shows frustration and low confidence.
- Avoid scratching your head as this will be seen as confusion or disbelief.
- Nervousness, immaturity or a cultural norm could be the cause for poor eye contact. Eye contact is key in Canadian society and especially in a job interview. Without it you may be sending a message of insincerity or evasiveness.
- Biting your lips shows your anxiety so concentrate on keeping your lips softly closed, not pursed or chewed.
- Tapping your foot or bouncing your leg is not only distracting to the interviewer; it also indicates that you have a desire to flee.
- Crossing your arms shows that you are uncomfortable and possibly hiding something, so keep your arms on the arm of the chair or in your lap or an elbow on the table if you are seated side saddle.
- Avoid rubbing the back of your neck, this is quite a demonstrative action that seldom goes unnoticed and shouts, “I want out of here,” or “This is a toughie and I don’t know what to say.”
- People tend to look up and to the right to invent or imagine a plausible answer or story, while looking up and to the left indicates that we are remembering actual events. So looking up and to the right may indicate to the interviewer that you are being dishonest in your response.
- Looking down usually indicates surrender - either that you do not know the answer or have nothing to say.
Body language tips for the interviewer:
- Poor eye contact could indicate a lack of interest in what the interviewee is saying.
- Raised eyebrows tend to show either surprise at what you are hearing or disbelief.
- Peering over eyeglasses can mean they are using eyeglasses that only focus close up, and to see you they look over the top. Be cognitive of what you said that provoked the peering as it could also mean doubt or disbelief in what you just said.
- Arms folded on the chest say they are not liking what you are saying, they aren’t buying what your selling or that they are cold.
As you practice, practice, practice for your interviews, ask for feedback on your body language as well as your prepared responses. Heighten your self-awareness level without stressing yourself out, add successfully reading and using body language to your new list of essential skills.
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of "Networking: How To Build Relationships That Count"
Category: Job interviews