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Written by Emily StokerEmily Stoker

What your body language tells the interviewer

13 min read
What your body language tells the interviewer
Artwork by:Sasha Knokova
Is your body language sending the wrong message during job interviews? Don't let it ruin your chances of landing your dream job! In this post, you’ll learn how to read your interviewer's body language, adjust for virtual interviews, and use your body language to convey confidence, interest, and engagement.

It’s normal to feel nervous before a job interview. However, did you know that your body language could either be betraying you or doing you a favor? If you’ve ever felt like you’re not being taken seriously in a job interview or the interviewer isn’t engaging with you, believe it or not, your body language could be the culprit!

In fact, from your posture to your facial expressions, every aspect of your body language can convey a message to your interviewer. But don't worry, we've got you covered! In this blog post we'll explore the importance of body language in job interviews and provide some fun and friendly tips for using it effectively through the following topics:

  • The importance of body language in job interviews
  • Understanding the science of body language
  • The “dos” of body language in job interviews
  • Interpreting your interviewer’s body language
  • How to adjust your body language for virtual interviews
  • Additional tips and tricks for interviews

So, get ready to make a strong impression and increase your chances of landing the job with some top body language tips.

Two people with yes and no signs
Two people with yes and no signs

Why is body language important in job interviews?

Your resume might be impressive and your answers might be on point. However, if your body language screams "I'd rather be anywhere else", you might as well start packing up your desk before you even get it. That’s why body language is important: it plays a huge part in how we communicate with others. It can convey all sorts of things, from confidence, interest, and engagement to boredom, discomfort, and even dishonesty.

So if you want to knock that interview out of the park, you've got to pay attention to your posture, your eye contact, your gestures, and even your facial expressions. Who knows, you might even see in practice how different body language techniques affect your interviewer's reactions. So straighten up, smile, and let your body do the talking!

Statistical insight

According to Psychology Today, as much as 55% of our communication is conducted through body language.

The science of body language

Kinesics, or the study of body motion as non-verbal communication, can help you better understand how you and others communicate nonverbally. From the way you sit to the expressions on your face - it all falls under kinesics. The main areas of kinesics are facial expressions, gestures, posture, eye movement, and even tone of voice. 

So, what can kinesics teach us about preparing for a job interview and coming across well to the job interviewer? Firstly, context is important in interpreting kinesics. For instance, gestures can have different meanings depending on the situation. It’s also important to remember that non-verbal communication is not universal across cultures.

While it won’t make up for a lack of knowledge, mastering the art of kinesics can help to increase your chances of advancing in the hiring process. That’s because by understanding the nuances of body language, you can make sure that you're sending all the right signals during the interview. For example, making eye contact, maintaining an open posture, and nodding your head can all convey confidence and interest in the job. 

On the other hand, crossing your arms, avoiding eye contact, or fidgeting can all send the wrong signals and undermine your chances of success. By paying attention to your own body language and making conscious adjustments where necessary, you can make sure that you come across as confident, engaged, and interested in the job. After all, these are all key traits that interviewers are looking for in a candidate.

6 Tips for effective body language in job interviews

During your interview prep, you may not have time to become an expert in kinesics. But you do have time to consider how you will present yourself non-verbally. Here are some top tips on how you can implement your newfound knowledge of body language to optimize your communication with the job interviewer.

  1. Pay attention to your posture. Sit up straight and avoid slouching or leaning back in your chair. This will help you to appear confident and engaged.
  2. Make eye contact. Maintaining eye contact with the interviewer shows that you're paying attention and interested in what they have to say. However, be careful not to stare too intensely or for too long. This could have the opposite effect and come across as aggressive.
  3. Use appropriate hand gestures. Hand gestures can be a powerful tool for emphasizing points and conveying enthusiasm. However, avoid excessive or distracting movements, such as tapping or fidgeting.
  4. Smile and nod. Smiling and nodding are associated with warmth and friendliness. However, overdoing it could come across as insincere or strange. Don’t forget to stop if the hiring manager starts to talk about something sad!
  5. Practice active listening. Engage in active listening by responding appropriately to the interviewer's questions and comments. This shows that you're interested in the conversation and willing to engage. Plus, it shows you have the social skills not to mindlessly smile and nod at anything that is being said.
  6. Use intentional and calm movements. Avoid touching your face or hair. This tends to be a marker of feeling nervous or uncertain. It’s normal to have some pre-interview jitters, but you should go in aiming to exude confidence and enthusiasm.
Expert tip

It starts the moment you walk through the door

You start to make an impression with your words and your body language as soon as you arrive for your interview. Avoid slouching and crossing your arms and go for a more open posture, even in the waiting room. So, ditch the phone scrolling and strike up some polite conversation with the secretary if appropriate. 

Interpreting your interviewer’s body language

During a job interview, the interviewer's nonverbal cues can reveal a lot about how they are feeling and what they are thinking. By paying attention to them and responding appropriately, you can make sure you’re both on the same page with the way you act as well as the words you say.

Keep an eye out for signs that your interviewer is interested and engaged in the conversation. For instance, they might lean forward and make direct eye contact. On the other hand, crossing their arms or avoiding eye contact may suggest that they are disinterested or skeptical. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and even the types of questions being asked can also provide important cues.

So, what can you do with this information? If the interviewer seems enthusiastic and engaged, this may be your chance to show off your passion and enthusiasm for the work. On the other hand, if they seem more reserved, it might be time to channel your inner calm. Present yourself as cool, competent, and collected. Or, if you feel like you’re losing their interest altogether, maybe it's time to show them that you mean business and really grab their attention!

Adjusting your body language for virtual job interviews

In a post-pandemic world, many job interviews are now virtual and take place over video calls. If your job interview will be virtual, there are a few key things to keep in mind when it comes to your body language. 

While the interviewer won't be able to see your full body, they'll still be paying attention to your facial expressions, hand gestures, and overall posture. It’s just as important as ever to come across well and possibly even more challenging to show them how engaged (and engaging!) you are.

As always, remember to maintain eye contact. This means looking directly into the camera instead of at your own image on the screen. By doing so, you'll be able to build trust and establish rapport with the interviewer, just like you would in an in-person interview.

The interviewer will only be seeing you from the waist up, so sitting up straight is even more important.  This will help you come across as confident and professional. On a similar note, in a virtual setting, the interviewer’s field of vision is limited. So be mindful of your hand gestures. While they can be an effective way to emphasize points and convey enthusiasm, overusing them in a virtual interview can be distracting and make you come across as nervous. Instead, use them sparingly to underscore important points. 

Expert tip

Technical difficulties

Dealing with lag or technical issues during a virtual job interview can be frustrating, but it's important to remain calm and professional.

Pause before answering any questions in your virtual interview. This will give you time to process what was said and ensure that your response is coherent and well-articulated. 

Also make sure you have a backup plan, such as providing a phone number where the interviewer can reach you, in case of technical difficulties.

Additional job interview tips and tricks

You’ve nailed the body language, but we all know that there’s a little more to it if you truly want to make a strong impression. In order to make sure you’re feeling your best, and therefore acting your best, there are some other things you should do in preparation for your interview to make sure you’re coming off as well as possible.

Practice your responses

Preparing is bound to make you feel more prepared and relaxed during the interview. Remember, you want to come across as confident and competent. So, take the time to prepare and practice responses to commonly asked interview questions.

Dress appropriately

The way you present yourself is another form of nonverbal communication. Even if it's a virtual interview, dressing professionally can help boost your confidence and make a good first impression. You want to show your interviewer that you take the opportunity seriously.

Be punctual 

This is another of those nonverbal clues. Arriving late can give the impression that you're not organized or don't value the interviewer's time. Be respectful and show up on time and ready to go. This signals that you are excited enough about the position to put in an effort.

Show your gratitude

After the interview, send a follow-up email thanking the interviewer for their time and reiterating your interest in the position. This can help keep you on the top of the list and show that you're enthusiastic about the opportunity. These small actions can make a big difference in how you're perceived during the interview process.

Key takeaways

  • Non-verbal cues are a huge part of your communication, but won’t mean the same thing universally.
  • Pay attention to the interviewer's body language and adapt accordingly.
  • Eye contact with an open and upright posture is the best approach for professional, job interview-appropriate body language.
  • There are a plethora of social cues beyond verbal communication that you should continue to finesse for your future job interviews and other social interactions at work and outside!
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