Hiring managers guide to interview body language

Hiring Manager’s guide to interview body language.

When hiring for a new role, first impressions are everything.

When we meet someone for the first time we make snap judgements about their assertiveness, friendliness, and appearance.

Some of these judgements could be attributed to unconscious bias. But it is more likely that your mind is subconsciously picking up on the other person’s body language cues.

As the legendary Latin pop singer Shakira once said, “ my hips don’t lie”.

Few people realise that she wasn’t just musing about the joys of finding love in the club. Instead she was making a statement on body language based entirely in scientific fact.

Professor Albert Mehrabian, a researcher in body language first discovered that communication is 55% non-verbal, 38% vocal and 7% words only. It’s worth considering the next time you meet a candidate, it’s what is unsaid that may say the most.

And like any other communication method, we can get better at it.

Interview Body Language can tell you a lot about your candidate.

As always communication is two ways. It’s just as important for a hiring manager to be aware of their interview body language as it is for a candidate.

You don’t want to risk losing a talented candidate because they perceived you as discontent after you sat with your arms crossed the whole interview.

In an interview setting (and in life) the goal is to communicate strength assuredness and confidence.

So here’s how to interpret interview body language;


  1. The eyes have it.

Interview body language tips

A study conducted at Concordia University aimed to discover which verbal and non-verbal cues were most important in an interview setting.

The researchers conducted interviews with eight current employers as well as four college age persons who recently interviewed for a job.

The study found that smiling and eye contact were the most important non-verbal cues.

“The more positive facial nonverbals the applicant displays in the interview, the more favourably the employer will look into hiring said applicant.”

So whether you’re a hiring manager or a candidate, do it with a smile!

And utilise appropriate eye contact. Staring deep into the eyes of your candidate for an extended period of time can certainly put them in a state of unease.


  1. Active posture is a plus.

There’s a natural flow that comes to our body movements when we are relaxed but when you’re nervous you can become incredibly stiff like an early onset of rigour mortis. Which isn’t ideal as most organisations look to hire the living.

Throughout the interview it is good to move in response to the natural flow of the interview. Lean in when you are being spoken to show that you’re listening and engaged. Sitting up and back for a few seconds shows you are putting thought into your response.

Moving appropriately throughout the interview shows that you are paying attention and keeps you from appearing nervous.

Active posture during a job interview

  1. But don’t be too active.


On the other end of the spectrum of nervous body language is fidgeting. It’s a common habit for many of us. A jumpy leg or jittering hands are some of the many ways nervousness manifests itself.


A study by Adecco USA found that hiring managers skipped applicants 26% of the time because they fidgeted too much.


If your candidate is particularly nervous it is worth acknowledging that fidgeting is also a sign of excitement and shouldn’t detract from their suitability for the role.


People fidget in different ways. If you’re a hand fidgeter try folding one hand over the other and resting them on the table in front of you. This will keep them from drawing unnecessary attention while still allowing you to gesture if required.


  1. Breaking the bubble of personal space.

Limit physical closeness to hand shakes. Don’t lean in too close or stand too close to your interviewer as once again this can lead to them feeling uncomfortable.




Interpreting nonverbal messages

Positive body language

During the interview you can read the body language of your candidate or interviewer in order to gain an insight into how well the interview is going.

Keep an eye out for:

Mirroring:  When the other person mirrors your movements, whether that’s nodding or gesturing or leaning forward when speaking. You can genuinely assume things are going well.


Eye contact:  If they cease to make eye contact during the interview this can be a red flag. It can indicate that they are disengaging from the interview. Or if you’re not making eye contact with your candidate that may be perceived as disinterest by the candidate.


Listening Empathetically: how you behave when you’re not talking is an important part of the impression you’ll make.

This goes for both interviewer and candidate. While the interview is an opportunity for the candidate to tell you all about how great they are for the role, it’s important to take note of the way in which they listen to you and engage with what you’re saying.

If they are listening empathetically they will be sitting with their body leaning slightly forward towards you. This sends the message that they are open, interested, and involved in the conversation. And Vice versa for when you are listening to their responses.

Giving a genuine nod can show you’re listening and tilting your head slightly to one side can help you come across as someone who’s friendly and approachable.

What about remote interviews?

Frazer Tremble | untitled 9

It’s 2023, plenty of workplaces are more than willing to conduct at the very least the early stages of the interview process online.

But can you still gauge your candidates effectively with limited to no body language and non verbal communication?

Most importantly always trouble shoot your video conferencing technology prior to the interview. Consider camera angles, lighting, outside noise and your microphone.

Some candidates will prefer being able to participate in an interview from the comfort of their own home. Candidates are also more likely to surround themselves with notes and windows on their screens which can provide them with more information during the interview.

If your candidate is struggling to make eye contact throughout the interview it may be an indicator that they are checking notes throughout the interview, which suggests they have not prepared thoroughly for the interview. Other explanations may include nervousness or social awkwardness.

When listening to the candidate it is important to note that when speaking most video conferencing technology will automatically mute other members in the chat. So try to show your actively listening by nodding rather than using verbal cues.

To conclude, interview body language can tell us as much about a person as any other language and so being able to understand this language will be a huge benefit to you as a hiring manager in the interview process.

Don’t miss out on our latest roles! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter!

Leave a comment

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.