Knowing what to look out for in terms of body language can help you to make informed decisions about the candidates you’re interviewing, providing further insight into who they really are beyond what they say about themselves.
In this article, we’ve highlighted 10 of the most common body language signals along with advice on what each of these could say about your interviewees.
A candidate’s posture is a strong indicator of their confidence and comfort level in the interview setting. Good posture, such as sitting up straight with shoulders back and head held high, shows that the candidate is engaged and interested in the conversation. On the other hand, slouching or leaning back in their chair can indicate that the candidate is disinterested or disengaged.
Eye contact is an essential component of body language and can indicate a candidate’s level of confidence and honesty. Making strong and consistent eye contact shows that the candidate is engaged, confident, and trustworthy. However, avoiding eye contact or frequently looking down can suggest that the candidate is nervous, uninterested, or hiding something.
It’s important to remember that some candidates may find eye contact difficult for numerous reasons, so bear this in mind when reflecting on how well they performed during the interview.
A candidate’s facial expressions can reveal a great deal about their emotions and thoughts during the interview. Smiling and nodding indicate that the candidate is engaged and interested while frowning or looking sad can suggest dissatisfaction with the interview process. Additionally, if a candidate’s face is neutral or blank, it may indicate that they are feeling indifferent or uninterested.
If you do notice a candidate frowning or looking confused, it could also be a sign that they don’t understand what you’re saying, so consider slowing down, taking a break, and pausing to ask if they have any questions before you continue.
Hand gestures can be a powerful tool for a candidate to express themselves and convey their enthusiasm and energy. However, excessive, or inappropriate hand gestures can also be a red flag, indicating nervousness or insincerity. For example, if a candidate is constantly fidgeting or playing with their hair, it may suggest they are uncomfortable, bored, or nervous.
Leg movements, such as tapping or shuffling, can be an indicator of a candidate’s level of nervousness or discomfort. Excessive leg movements can suggest that the candidate is anxious or unprepared, while calm and controlled movements may indicate that they are relaxed and confident.
Touching or Covering the Mouth
Touching or covering their mouth can indicate that a candidate is hiding something or is uncomfortable with the interview process. This behaviour can also suggest that the candidate is nervous or uncertain, so pay attention to this signal and if necessary, open up the floor to any questions to help re-engage and re-focus the candidate.
Crossed arms can be a defensive body language signal, indicating that a candidate is closed off or uncomfortable. This behaviour can also suggest that the candidate is not open to feedback or is unwilling to listen to you. On the other hand, an open and relaxed posture, with arms uncrossed, can indicate that the candidate is engaged and interested in the conversation.
A candidate who is nodding frequently during the interview may indicate that they are engaged and in agreement with your statements. However, excessive nodding can also suggest that the candidate is simply trying to appease you and may not fully understand the topic being discussed. If you suspect that this is the case, ask the candidate if they have any questions, or if they’d like to share their thoughts on the topic you’ve just touched on before you move on.
Touching or Fidgeting with Objects
A candidate who is frequently touching or fidgeting with objects, such as a pen or paper, may be indicating nervousness or discomfort. This behaviour can also suggest that the candidate is not fully engaged in the conversation. If you find a lot of your interviewees are frequently fidgeting and showing signs of boredom/discomfort, it might be time to re-evaluate how you’re delivering the interview. For example, are you doing a lot of talking at them, rather than allowing natural conversation to flow?
If a candidate is unconsciously mirroring your body language, such as sitting in a similar posture or making similar gestures, it may indicate that they are trying to build rapport and establish a connection with you. However, if the candidate is consciously mirroring you, it may suggest insincerity or a lack of authenticity.
Make Candidates Feel More at Ease…
Many of these body language signals can either be an indication of nervousness or disinterest, and it can be hard to decipher which is which. When preparing for your job interviews, make sure you’ve thought about how you’re going to put candidates at ease, and how you’ll provide the ideal environment for a conversation rather than an interrogation.
More tips on how to make candidates feel at ease can be found here.