During an interview there’s no denial that body language plays a role in the game of “to make a job offer or not”.  Non-verbal cues can speak volumes you can discreetly observe a candidate in the reception area even before an interview starts to help gage the dynamics of individuals.

During an interview how the person responds can be as important as the response itself given to each question. Fact is, 60-80% of a message is communicated through body language rather than verbal communication.   You can gain a fair amount of insight from the candidate’s body language facial expressions and communication style if you apply some thought and notice the nonverbal during an interview.

It is thought that we form opinions about a new person we meet within seconds. Much of what is communicated in those first few seconds is nonverbal you’ll note right away how the person carries himself. Does he show poise and confidence head up shoulders back or is he slouched appearing uncertain and under confident?

One early indicator can seem like a cliché but it’s true: A firm hand- shake immediately warms you to a person and gives the impression of strength and confidence. Look to this element of style in both genders as an early indication of the candidate’s self-assurance.

Another vital component of any interpersonal encounter is eye contact. Focused eye contact not only indicates confidence but shows that the candidate is attentive and engaged. Good eye contact should be maintained throughout the interview. Less eye contact could indicate lack of confidence uneasiness evasiveness and even lack of interest in the position.

Head and face movements can also indicate the level of engagement. They can indicate active listening when they correspond appropriately to what is being said. For instance, a head nod at something relevant and smiles and other facial expressions are suitable at times. The head as well as the upper body leaning forward can also indicate interest and a positive reaction to what is being said. Crossed arms can indicate reluctance or defensiveness as they establish a sense of separation. Crossed arms may also be exhibited by someone who is physically cold, so be sure to take this signal in context perhaps because hands contain more nerve connections to the brain than many parts of the body they tend to be particularly expressive. They can be used in illustration for emphasis and for specific signals such as the positive thumbs-up or OK sign. What some people may not know is that the hands can also “leak” unconscious signals such as when interacting with paper pens or paper clips can indicate feelings of doubt deceit openness expectation etc.

Steepling or having the fingertips of each hand touching is thought to reflect elevated thinking you may notice this when a candidate is trying to make connections that explain. While steepling the fingers upward often indicates thoughtfulness steepling outward in the direction of another person may also indicate a barrier. Interwoven clenched fingers may indicate anxiety or frustration.

Touching or scratching the nose while speaking is thought to be a sign of exaggeration while scratching the neck points toward doubt. Tugging on the ear can indicate self-comforting and indecision. Generally people finger different parts of the body in an effort to provide self comfort but ear tugging is thought to indicate related contemplation.

Although leg and feet body language is more difficult to fake than some of those mentioned keep in mind that when someone sits for a half hour or more they are likely to change leg positions simply from a standpoint of comfort. In addition men and women tend to sit differently which should also be taken into consideration.

Curiously the direction in which the knees are pointed tends to correspond with the level of interest. A person sitting will unconsciously direct their knees toward the subject of interest and on the other hand will naturally direct them away from something that is uninteresting or intimidating Feet follow a similar pattern.

While crossed legs are thought to indicate a lack of interest or cau- tion and uncrossed legs are thought to indicate a sense of open- ness, keep in mind that these naturally vary with gender. Again, if legs are crossed, consider where the knee is pointed to help deter- mine the level of enthusiasm The figure-4 leg crossing with the ankle resting on the opposite knee however tends to exhibit confi- dence. Take other signals into account as this posture can indicate independence or stubbornness. Finally, legs crossed at the ankles are thought to indicate defensiveness and intertwined legs, usually a female posture, can suggest insecurity.

While many signals can give the impression of boredom or anxiety, it is important to take into consideration the context of the meeting. Be wary and take body language in context. Body language in one situation might not mean the same as in another. For example someone scratching their nose or eye might actually have an itch or irritation rather than being evasive or tired. Look for repetition of body language signals for a more reliable means of interpretation. In addition there may be cultural differences in body language signals such as personal space inclinations which can vary among cultures.

Some people will work to control their body language in order to project the desired image. A firm handshake and good eye contact are two of the easiest and most easily controlled elements. However an effort to exude confidence where there is little is likely to be temporary, and this is all the more reason to look for clusters of indicators and avoid a more superficial check based on isolated signals.

In addition sales people are often taught to mirror or match their body language with that of the person with whom they are speaking. This helps to build a rapport and put people at ease. It en- courages trust. Though some mirroring may be conscious, it is not necessarily deceptive and can be effective in engaging a person and building trust.


As a general rule positive body language includes:

  • Moving or leaning in closer
  • Relaxed, uncrossed limbs
  • Consistent eye contact
  • A genuine smile

Negative body language includes:

  • Moving or leaning away from the interviewer
  • Crossed arms or legs
  • Looking away to the side
  • Feet pointed away or towards an exit
  • Rubbing/scratching the nose eyes or back of neck

Again, the above are general rules to provide basic insight, but a single cue can mean different things. It’s important to take notice of numerous behavioral cues from the candidate and take them in context. Keep in mind that some people exhibit certain behaviors regularly as part of their personality as well, so be sure to consider the overall picture rather than isolated cues.