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How to Assess Interview Body Language

The ability to accurately assess a candidate’s body language in the interviewing process will increase a company’s quality of hire. A candidate’s words may not expose as much about him or herself the way their body language can.

When you meet with a job candidate for an interview, you automatically begin to observe their body language as soon as they enter the room. Upon meeting someone for the first time, their body language and non-verbal signals greatly determine your initial impression of them (consciously and unconsciously). There may even be specific mannerisms you are looking for in a candidate that will help you determine if they’d be a good hire.

The body language of a job candidate can reveal their level of confidence. Pay close attention to body language cues such as sitting up straight, fidgeting, and touching of the face. A candidate with good posture and who talks easily about their past accomplishments is sure of him or herself and will likely be a high performer, according to eSkill Blog.

Someone who leans back in their seat or slouches suggests boredom or a lack of interest. Fidgeting is a sign of restlessness and impatience, whereas a candidate who sits with their hands calmly in their lap is self-assured and relaxed. Excessive touching of the face can be distracting and may be a sign of someone who is uncomfortable and unsure of themselves.

You should also take note of how a candidate shakes your hand. A simple handshake can tell you a great deal about one’s personality. Body language expert Patti Wood says that a firm handshake with direct eye contact and a smile shows that a person is confident, interested and genuine. A limp handshake should be a signal of a person’s disinterest. A candidate whose handshake leaves your hand aching is dominating and insensitive. An over-eager and slightly insecure candidate will have a very forceful handshake.

If you want to know a person’s true feelings or emotions it’s best to study their face. Wood advises that while you are speaking you should observe the candidate’s responsive face. For instance, if you were to say, “This position requires traveling” and the candidate smiles before saying “That’s great,” they most likely truthfully feel that way. However, if the candidate says, “That’s great” and then smiles, you should probably question their sincerity, according to Wood.

Maintaining eye contact during an interview is crucial for a candidate. If you find that someone is unable to look you in the eye that may mean a few different things — shyness, nervousness, disinterest, or dishonesty. Candidates who stare blankly and show barely any emotion most likely have no interest in being an active participant of the interview process. A person who stares signifies aggression or fear. Amanda Augustine, job search expert of, says, “While it’s important to be confident and look the interviewer in the eye, locking eyes with someone for an extended period of time can be interpreted as aggressive, not to mention a little creepy.”

What a candidate does with their hands, arms, feet, and legs can also tell you a lot about their personality. If a candidate crosses their arms during an interview, you can take that to mean a negative and defensive attitude. Resting an ankle on the other knee is not appropriate in an interview setting. Wood says that this suggests an arrogant and very casual attitude.

Those who express themselves with open hands and visible palms show openness and sincerity. However, waving hands about and making sharp gestures can signify aggression and is not very professional. Charisma coach Cynthia Burnham warns that chopping gestures should be avoided by candidates. “Whole arm karate chop gestures can psychologically cut up the space between you and your interview in an aggressive way,” says Burnham.

If you are conducting a video interview with a candidate, assessing their body language will require a little more effort and attention to detail because he or she will be sitting across a webcam instead of your desk. Are they leaning forward in their seat, actively listening to you, and making eye contact? These are all signs of enthusiasm that you want to see in a candidate. If you see a candidate swiveling in their chair or distracted by things in the room they’re in, these can be signs of someone not taking you or the interview seriously.

It’s important to keep in mind that first impressions can be influenced by our own personal biases; therefore, you should not immediately make judgments on a candidate. It should also be noted that a candidate’s behavior during an interview may be misleading and that most people are nervous in interviews even if it’s not blatantly obvious. Assessing a candidate’s body language is useful when making a hiring decision, but it should not be the sole basis for determining whether you should offer him or her a position. Rodriguez is the PR/Content Marketing Intern at Spark Hire, a video powered hiring network that connects job seekers and employers through video resumes and online interviews. Photo Credit Marvilloso Magazine.

SmartRecruiters is the hiring platform with everything you need to source talent, manage candidates, and make the right hires. Check out more interview tips on our blog.

Camelia Rodriguez