SmartRecruiters Blog

The 3 Most Universal Tells in an Interview

Aside from the actual job offer itself, interviewing a candidate is the single most important part of the recruitment.  While sourcing and posting your online job ad is never easy, the interview process can be long, intense, and complicated.  The interview relies on two people, typically the hiring manager and the job seeker to meet, engage, share, and develop a relationship with one another.  Not every job seeker that meshes well with the interviewer is the ideal candidate for the position.  Sometimes personal preferences, interests, and commonalities get in the way of a great hire.

Candidates are also becoming increasingly aware of how to game the hiring and recruitment process being coached with the right things to say and keyword stuffing their resume.  Unfortunately, job seekers are being coaxed and encouraged to lie and fake their way to a promotion or new job opportunity. In my experience, job seekers most often exhibit tells like a poker play does with an interview.  Here are three universal interview tells recruiters can use as part of their interview evaluation process to sniff out the best and most qualified candidates for the job:


  • Shifting.  Shifty eyes, shifting feet, or just nervous twitch can be a tell that something is not right with the prospective employee.  They are uncomfortable or nervous with the new job’s responsibilities, requirements, hours, or their previous job history.  Shifting or fidgeting happens because the job seeker wants or needs the job but their body responds differently.   They may not be giving you the whole story.  Move on or probe for more information.


  • Nose Touching.  Scientists believe that lies or untruths said are often accompanied by a touching of the nose with the person’s fingers or hands commonly referred to as the Pinocchio Effect.  Depending on the time of year you are conducting the interview, you could write off the nose touching to allergies, but as a hiring manager you have to ask yourself if this hire is worth the risk.


  • Possessive Phrases.  When it comes down to it, we’re all selling something either a product or service or ourselves for the job.  Job seekers don’t often think of themselves as in the sales business even though they should.  The job market is competitive and as recruiters we don’t want to loose our best candidate option. Qualified job seekers have choices too. Recruiters can gauge a top prospects interest by their tells if they speak using possessive phrases like, “my desk” or “my sales team.”  Using possessive phrases means they are more likely to accept the job offer when you present.


Every aspect of the interview and selection process is a negotiation.  Job seekers want to learn about the job openings and organization while also marketing themselves for the job.  Companies are doing the very same thing.  It’s the dance we do to learn, evaluate, and understand if the job or job seeker is right for you or you are right for them.  It’s the subtle and often non-verbal cues and patterns that really give away our true intentions and/or facts about who we really are.  Recruiting and hiring managers can look for these interview tells during the candidate selection process and throughout their career as they interact with team members, peers, employees, bosses, clients, and more.


@blogging4jobs blogsJessica Miller-Merrell
, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. When she talks, people listen. Photo Credit 

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a HR consultant, new media strategist, and author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. Jessica is the host of Job Search Secrets, an internet television show for job seekers.