How to Read Body Language in an Interview

There are so many things to do to land your dream job. While polishing your resume and cover letter happens away from your hiring manager, the job interview is a whole ‘nother story.

This phase of job hunting takes you center stage, which is why job interviews can be terrifying. But given the circumstances, you can still captivate your interviewer not only through your words but also your body language. Aside from that, you can also observe their nonverbal cues to know if your job interview is going well.

You see, communication doesn’t stop at the things you say. Instead, it starts and ends with the subtle, unspoken messages your body conveys. So better to watch out for those when you enter and exit the interview room. That is why mastering your communication skills is important to grow your career.

Why is body language important in a job interview?

The work environment is a complicated place. There are cultures, cliques, and individual personalities you need to interact with. So your hiring manager needs to know how well you can read between the lines.

Understanding body language can help you expect anything without someone saying a word.Having this skill will make you recognizable from the rest of the candidates. And a job interview is the best place to show it.

Body language is your body’s way of communicating through movement and gestures, even if you do it unconsciously. These mannerisms and facial expressions say a lot about your character. In fact, it speaks louder than words, regardless of whether you’re aware of it.

Here’s an example. If you have your back hunched over and your arms crossed, your hiring manager may read it as if you’re not confident and being defensive. So they’ll see this as a negative body language.

But there’s another piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding nonverbal communication—your tone of voice. Like body language, your voice tone plays a vital role in job interviews because it can show your values and emotions. So the sum of your nonverbal messages keeps you and your interviewer engaged in the conversation.

How to read body language in an interview anxious applicant in yellow top

Body language tips in an interview

Interviewees can make a lasting impression on their hiring managers in the first seven seconds of their job interview. But a study from Legal Jobs says that 39% of them may not make the cut due to poor voice quality, while 30% are because of poor handshakes.

These statistics show that your hiring manager isn’t solely basing your capabilities on your interview answers. Instead, your overall aura and demeanor play a huge part in nailing your job interview too.

Following these interview body language tips to know how to act during your meeting:

  • Making eye contact. Eye contact is a way to connect with people. It shows confidence and willingness to talk with your interviewer professionally. But keep it natural because they can spot if you’re doing it intentionally. So maintain eye contact about 70% of the time while speaking.
  • Firm handshake. A firm handshake makes a solid first impression. By doing so, you can establish trustworthiness within the initial 90 seconds of meeting your hiring manager.
  • Confident posture. Your posture can say many things about you. It can show your employer whether you’re confident, engaged, or submissive. For instance, standing or sitting upright while talking demonstrates that you value your conversation with them.
  • Positive facial expressions. The way you talk through your facial expressions lets your interviewer know how you feel when they ask you a question. It’s their way of identifying if you genuinely want the job. Here’s a suggestion. Let your tongue hover in your mouth rather than biting your cheeks and clenching your jaws out of stress.
  • Make use of pauses. Pausing between answers is a powerful way to communicate. Not only does it make you feel comfortable, but it also displays that you’re being thoughtful with your words. So remember to breathe through your interview answers.

Your positive body language builds rapport. It helps you establish good relationships with your hiring manager in the early stages of the interview process. So use it skillfully and never overdo it.

How to read body language in an interview

While you focus on your own body language, understanding your interviewer’s non verbal cues is just as important.  It allows you to gauge how well you’re doing during your interview. Then, you can base your reactions and answers to win them back on your side.

This reference guide on how to read body language in an interview and how you can respond:

How they position their hands and feet

It’s hard to observe this part in a virtual interview. But if you are in an in-person interview, the interviewer’s legs and feet can tell you how they feel.

What your hiring manager is trying to say:

  • Both of the interviewer’s feet are pointing towards you means they find your answers interesting and are open to hearing more about it.
  • One or both feet are away from you means they want to leave the interview room.
  • When they cross their legs, they’re hostile and no longer interested.
  • Shifting weight from side to side or twitching legs indicates your interviewer is stressed or anxious about something.

What you can do about it:

  • Keep a confident body language and sit comfortably regardless if you’re doing a phone or online interview.
  • When it seems like they want to leave the room, you may have said something disrespectful. In that case, ask if you did and apologize.
  • If they think the interview is a waste of time, you can come up with a question that relates to the job or the company. And that’s when you can turn things around.

Their head and facial expressions

It’s easy to find out your hiring manager’s emotions through facial expressions. And you can focus on this part of their body language in an online interview.

What your hiring manager is trying to say:

  • Maintaining eye contact is a way for them to display interest and engagement. Simultaneously, looking the other way indicates they’re distracted or uninterested. It can be a sign you didn’t get the job.
  • A raised eyebrows and a quick smirk are signs of surprise or a hint of disagreement.
  • Smiling and nodding while looking at you means you got their attention, and it can’t get any better than this.

What you can do about it:

  • When they’re avoiding eye contact for a long time, go straight to the point or ask relevant questions about your role.
  • If you’re sensing a clash of ideas, you can politely tell them that you can feel it. And ask if you can clear the air.
  • When you think you’re on their good side, give a genuine smile back and match their body language and energy.

The way they hold their body

Postural cues are how a hiring manager positions their body. It can reveal their reactions to certain things, such as what people say or what’s happening around them. You can look for muted responses to see if you’re doing well, even in a video interview.

What your hiring manager is trying to say:

  • Positioning their body towards you means they’re curious to know more about your ideas. Pointing away from you is the opposite.
  • When they’re sitting forward with arms crossed on their desk is a sign that they’re attentive. But leaning back with folded arms on their chest reveals boredom, arrogance, or showing a “self-soothing” gesture.

What you can do about it:

  • If they want to hear more, give them all you’ve got. Use your hands. It helps you think clearly. It also makes them remember what you have to say.
  • Use your hand gestures to get them to listen intently when you notice boredom. But keep your hands inside an imaginary square along your torso.

Their arms and hands

People can’t help but to talk with their hands. It’s human nature. Use it to understand the subtle message your interviewer is saying.

What your hiring manager is trying to say:

  • When their arms are open on the table, they’re relaxed.
  • Tapping their hands or fidgeting with something can mean they’re in a hurry.

What you can do about it:

  • Mimic their body language when it seems like you two have a connection. This means that your interview is heading in the right direction.
  • Finish your thoughts to speed up the conversation if you think they have to be elsewhere.

Sometimes reading body language isn’t always accurate. There may be cases where your interviewer does it on purpose to see how you would react to a certain situation. The workplace environment can be tricky, so they need to know if you can handle any circumstances. But it’s also possible that your interviewer has mannerisms that have to do with their character, not you.

How to prepare for a virtual interview

In this day and age, it’s inevitable to have a video interview. So you might be wondering, “How do you show effective body language virtually?” or “Is it possible to read your interviewer’s body language in an online interview?”

Translating body language online can be challenging because seeing the other person is difficult. Plus, you can easily misjudge the hiring manager’s body language. But with a little bit of self-learning, it’s possible to understand what they’re subliminally telling you.

You need to prepare some things on your side of the camera to communicate that you’re a right fit for the job. And here’s how you can do it:

  • Use proper lighting
  • Clear out your space
  • Speak with your hands
  • Don’t mute your microphone
  • Sit straight to maintain your body posture
  • Troubleshoot your computer beforehand
  • Limit shifting around during the interview
  • Adjust your webcam angle just above eye level
  • Look straight into the camera to encourage eye contact
  • Smile and nod your head to show you’re still mentally present

Virtual jobs aren’t going anywhere. It’s best to be ready for your next interview regardless of the setting. Go the extra mile by downloading a handshake app to impress your interview even more. This small gesture will make you stand out.

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How To Read And Understand Business Body Language

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Body language is subjective

Here’s one thing you need to understand about job interviews, you’re not the only one paying attention to body language. Your hiring manager is also looking for red flags you might show in the process. They want to see if you have what it takes to embody their company culture through your personality.

Remember that body language is open to interpretation. You can’t always accurately say one mannerism is exactly what it means. So take into account each individual’s uniqueness—their quirks and character traits.

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