Work that body language – noticing what is not said during interviews

The communication between an interviewee and their interviewer is more direct during a job interview

Much of how we communicate is nonverbal: how often do we assess, judge and react to people, without a word being said? The communication between an interviewee and their interviewer is more direct during a job interview, but the importance of body language still remains.

Whilst a combination of nerves and a desire to focus on questions often means that body language will go unnoticed, if you pay attention to it you may reap the dividends, or at least have a better idea as to how well your interview is proceeding.

Maintaining eye contact

We are often advised to try and maintain good eye contact if we want to get our message across. Accordingly, if you are communicating effectively, you will probably find your interviewer will be in regular eye contact with you.

However, if you find that they are looking less at you than they are at the walls, a notepad in front of them or their watch, this is most likely an indication that your interview is not going as well as you had hoped. Try to wrap up your answer succinctly, to see if they were simply ready to ask the next question.

Reading facial expressions

Some people are better at reading facial expressions than others, but simply because you are not very good at it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take note. You may get it right! A furrowed brow can suggest confusion, glazed over eyes can mean boredom or that they are uninterested, a smile will usually mean that they are happy with what they have heard. Even the most poker-faced interviewer is likely to let slip a micro expression which you may pick up on.

Being able to read facial expressions can be like having a sixth sense, and it will enable you to react and adapt in an interview situation.

Are they sitting comfortably?

If your interviewer looks uncomfortable, perhaps because they are sitting very upright, it is likely that they feel that way. A feeling of anxiety or unease is probably preventing them from relaxing and they may have doubts about whether you will be right for the job.

If you find it very difficult to interpret body language, but you think that your interviewer is looking uneasy, it may be possible to overcome this by asking whether you are answering their question in the way that they would like. For example, try asking “would you prefer me to provide specific examples or explain my general approach?”


An interviewer who makes notes whilst nodding in agreement with you, or even laughs at your joke, is likely to feel positive towards you. Conversely, an interviewer who leans back with their arms folded across their chest, often a defensive posture, may be signalling that they do not feel that they can trust you.

Another signal to watch out for is an interviewer who shakes their head whilst simultaneously saying “yes”, or sometimes nods their head whilst saying “no”. This is often a clear indication that they are not saying what they think.

Whilst using your own body language is the first step to a successful interview, reading your interviewer’s body language will help you to anticipate that call back.

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The British Institute of Recruiters is the Professional Body operating The Recruitment Certification Scheme

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