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Watch Out for Certain Body Language During Interviews

by | Oct 15, 2014 | Power Posing, In the Workplace

Tips for Picking the Right Candidates

You’ve sifted through resumes and tossed the ones without relevant experience, the one with the mustard stain, and the ones with the mistakes. “Excellent communication skills,” indeed. You found the promising ones and your assistant scheduled some interviews. You have your list of probing questions designed to make the job seekers squirm.

But will you really know when they’re squirming? Will you catch more subtle body language?

What job seekers know and say, what they’ve done, their work ethic, how well they think on the spot—these are key things to determine in an interview. But don’t lose sight of body language. It provides reliable clues about how candidates present themselves when it matters, their interpersonal skills, whether they’re telling the truth, and other aspects of how you can expect them to perform.

It’s just as important that leaders recognize appropriate body language as it is for them to project it. Here are some telling red flag behaviors to watch for during interviews:

An Interviewee with Crossed Arms or Legs

These are classic closed-off, defensive postures. When someone subconsciously inserts physical barriers into the conversation, it’s often an indication of resistance or dishonesty. At the very least, this person isn’t feeling particularly open and friendly.

A Candidate with Shifty or Upward-Gazing Eyes

Eyes darting around the room typically indicate someone’s lying. This person is literally and figuratively looking for a better answer than the readily available truth. Roaming eyes also prevent eye contact, which makes people uncomfortable when they’re being dishonest.

A Job Seeker Doesn’t Sit Up Straight

Some people have better posture than others, but an interviewee should deliberately sit up straight in a neutral but not rigid position. It’s reasonable to assume a sloucher is disinterested or lacks confidence, that someone leaning back is lazy or cocky, and that someone sticking out toward you is aggressive and may make others uncomfortable.

A Person Doesn’t Make Much Eye Contact… Or Makes Too Much

Eye contact helps establish a connection, especially at a first meeting. People have many reasons for not making eye contact; perhaps they’re bored, lying, nervous, or not confident. Those at the other end of the spectrum, who stare, generally creep people out. If you’re hiring someone who’ll need to forge relationships, choose someone who makes an appropriate amount of eye contact.

Look for Groups of Behaviors and Consistent Signs

Reading body language is as much an art as a science. Don’t get distracted focusing on posture, gestures, and other behaviors. Also, don’t assume meaning in every little action. Repeated covering of the mouth or face rubbing points to dishonesty, but an isolated, fleeting brush of the nose is probably just an itch. And even confident, accomplished candidates tend to feel some nerves at a big interview.