Has this ever happened to you? You finished a job interview and someone asked how it went, but you weren’t really sure. You had been a little nervous when you arrived at the interview, so you focused on answering the hiring manager’s questions – and forgot to pay attention to the hiring manager’s nonverbal communication.
That happens a lot. Most people are so worried about how they come across in an interview that they forget to watch the body language of the interviewer. But being able to read nonverbal cues can increase your chances of interview success.
That’s because the way the interviewers react and move their body can demonstrate whether they’re listening or bored, whether or not they agree with what you’re saying, and if they believe you’d be a good fit for the job. So, the next time you’re in a job interview, look for these nonverbal cues.
If the interviewer is smiling and looks interested in what you’re saying, great. If he or she appears confused (furrowed brow or one eyebrow raised), disgusted (both eyebrows raised and shakes head side to side) or uninterested (unexpressive face or glazed eyes), then take note.
These expressions mean the interviewer might not understand what you’ve said, disagree with your comments or could have become bored with a long-winded answer. Look for these cues so you can adjust your behavior — such as quickly wrapping up your answer if his or her facial expression shows disinterest.
If the interview is going well, the hiring manager should be making regular eye contact. Pay attention to cues that could indicate things are going awry, such as the interviewer looking around the room, glancing at the clock on the wall or looking down at a watch or notepad a lot.
These behaviours could mean that you’re rambling, or that he or she is ready to move on to the next question – or has already made a decision about you as a candidate.
Ideally, the hiring manager’s posture is relaxed and he or she is leaning forward, demonstrating engagement and interest. If the interviewer posture is stiff, or they lean back and cross their arms across their chest, beware. These cues can signal anxiety or discomfort and could also indicate that the hiring manager doesn’t believe you’re a good fit for the job or that they don’t trust your answers.
Positive gestures are taking notes, nodding “yes” or laughing at your funny stories. Cues to watch out for are crossed arms while leaning back, cocked head to one side with a raised eyebrow, and shaking head “no” while verbally responding “yes” (or vice versa) – because this signals a disconnect between what the interviewer is saying out loud and what they really believe.
If you’re unsure of something during a job interview, don’t be afraid to check with the hiring manager. You could say, “It looks like I might have confused you with my answer. Were you looking for specific examples or for my overall philosophy about people management?”
The good news: Being aware of nonverbal cues allows you to modify your behavior during the job interview and will increase your chances of success.