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How to read the body language of candidates in the interview?

Learn to assess the body language of candidates in selection processes

Understanding body language in job interviews provides valuable information for hiring managers, such as whether the professional is self-assured and capable, works well in a team, or is authoritative. The manner in which someone interacts with the interviewer can foreshadow how they will behave and treat others in the workplace.

While body language analysis is only a small part of finding the right person for a new job, it can help you make better hiring decisions. Learn how to:

What is body language?

It’s not so much what you say as it is how you say it. Our posture, gestures, movements, and facial expressions all influence how others perceive us.

Body language is a valuable tool. For example, when you want to make a point, arm gestures can help paint a picture and make people pay attention. In addition, if you want to dominate a discussion, an open posture can be a powerful ally.

No one can read people’s minds, but you can make some educated guesses based on how they act, especially when hiring. Although useful, the analysis must be carried out with caution in order to avoid hasty conclusions.

Types of body language

Body language encompasses all of a person’s movements, speech, and interactions with others. Some gestures are intentional, such as a handshake at the start of an interview, while others are unintentional.

While some candidates may attempt to control their body language during an interview, the majority will act out of habit, revealing information about their attitude toward the job.

Some of the most important types of body language to look out for during an interview are:

  • Posture
  • hand gestures
  • Visual contact
  • Handshake
  • mirroring
  • Restless legs and feet

How to assess the candidate’s body language?

As a recruiter, you should watch out for the following body language signals from candidates in a job interview, starting from the top down:

face and eyes

In an in-person interview or, especially, online, you should look closely at the head, face, and eyes for important clues about how the professional feels.

Eye contact: Shows trust and interest.

Look away: If the candidate looks away, he is probably worried, impatient, or uninterested.

Head tilt: Shows interest and empathy.

Facial expressions: Facial expressions offer a great way to interpret how someone feels about an issue or situation. For example, if the candidate’s smile is wide open and reflects across the entire face, such as when frown lines are created, it is likely genuine. If not, he may not be so comfortable with you.

Pauses in Speech: The pauses a candidate takes when answering a question can also be an important part of their body language. People who think carefully about how to answer show detailed consideration for each question.

arms and hands

Many people “talk with their hands”, so this is an easy and obvious way to tune in to the pro.

Crossed arms are usually an obvious indication of lack of involvement and discomfort.

Open arms: Open arms indicate relaxation and openness to ideas.

Handshake: A firm handshake, combined with a smile and eye contact, indicates trust and acceptance.

Restless Fingers: Because job interviews can be stressful, many candidates get restless and perform nervous fidgeting movements, such as playing with their hair and strumming. This may demonstrate a lack of confidence or shyness.

Gestures: People often use gestures to emphasize and express themselves, but there is a fine line between being expressive and being dramatic. So beware of candidates who exaggerate this type of body language during the interview. For example, those who use cutting motions or point fingers can be authoritative.


Posture is a subtle indicator of how someone feels, but it’s a critical piece of the body language puzzle in the selection process.

Upright posture: A straight and open back indicates that the practitioner is comfortable and confident.

Bent posture: the bent back may indicate that the candidate is defensive or tired.

legs and feet

They can be hard to see, but legs and feet are surprisingly a good indicator of how someone is feeling.

Feet pointing towards you: If the candidate is standing or sitting with their feet pointed towards you, they are likely interested and open to conversation.

Feet apart: when the toes point in another direction, there may be a desire to leave.

Crossed legs: it can mean that the person is defensive or closed off.

Restless Feet or Legs: This shows that the interviewer is anxious or stressed.

Caution when evaluating candidates’ body language

comprehend the personality

Each person’s personality and mannerisms must be considered when making a decision. Someone who doesn’t make eye contact, for example, may not be suspicious but rather shy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, if the open scope of the position, for example, does not require extroversion, this is not an impediment to hiring.

Think about the culture

Body language is also influenced by culture. According to a study conducted by psychologist Paul Ekman, some facial expressions differ depending on cultural background. Eye contact is important in Western cultures, but it can be frowned upon in Japan.

When in doubt, inquire

It is not always possible to deduce the meaning of a specific gesture on its own. People, for example, can fold their arms when they are cold. However, if you notice a candidate crossing their arms, crossing their legs, and clenching their fists at the same time, expect an aggressive response. When in doubt, ask more questions to gain a better understanding of the professional’s point of view.

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