Before a big interview you’re excited about, you know how important is to do your homework. Not only should you use the STAR method to prepare for interview questions, the position in question, and every person you may interview with — but researching body language clues can also give you an upper hand. How come? Regardless if they realize or not, everyone is guilty of giving off non-verbal clues through gestures as they interact with the people around them.
When you can read what someone is saying, without uttering a word, you better understand how they’re reacting to your words, your ideas, and your presence. The next time you tie your tie, lace your shoes or give your hair one more once-over before heading out the door to interview for a dream gig, remember these good — and bad! — responses.
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Good: Solid eye contact
Think about that promising first date you had a week ago, or when you started to fall for your partner. You couldn’t get enough of their eyes, right? There’s a reason so many songs are written about pretty peepers — they illustrate how interested we are in another person. As career expert Wendi Weiner explains, when your could-be boss is maintaining a solid stare as they listen to every word you say, it’s a good sign they’re keen on your responses. It’s important to match their behavior and keep the eye contact with confidence and conviction, she recommends. You should keep this going until they break it, signaling they’re ready to ask a different question.
“If the interviewer stops making eye contact with you, recognize it and move on. Take inventory of it and start focusing on getting them to be engaged,” she suggests.
Bad: Arms folded
When you’re having a difficult conversation with anyone — your best friend, your child, your partner — you probably cross your arms without realizing it. This is a way to protect ourselves and to show that maybe we aren’t comfortable with the discussion at hand. In an interview, career coach Cheryl Palmer says this position could mean that the interviewer isn’t interested in what you’re saying, or is bored.
“This cannot be taken as an absolute, however. Some people fold their arms out of habit, not because they are uninterested in what the other person is saying. Or, the interviewer may be cold, and folding his or her arms is a way of warming up,” she continues.
However, if they remain closed off five minutes into your interview, Palmer encourages interviewees to switch up the energy with open body language — chest open, relaxing casually into a chair — to win him or her over.
Good: Tilting head
Ever been to a noisy coffee shop where you could barely hear yourself think, much less hear what your friend next to you is saying? This probably made you lean closer in, hoping to get your ear closer to their latest download. Elizabeth Whittaker-Walker, leadership development and career expert says it’s usually a great sign with an interviewer promptly tilts their head toward you in response to something you’ve said. This indicates activate listening — and speaks volumes about their interest.
“It could mean that the interviewer values something that you’ve said, is reflecting on a comment, or perhaps even weighing a risk. If you find a hiring manager tilting their head regularly as you are speaking, it’s a good sign that you have their attention,” she explains.
When you are thoroughly engaged in a conversation, a Netflix show or even your hearty, fresh-made pasta at dinner time, you aren’t thinking or worrying about anything else. In fact, when you’re happy and fulfilled, you appreciate being in the moment and giving your attention to whatever is happening right-here and right-now. The same goes for an interview: if the person quizzing you doesn’t seem to be listening, keeps moving around or overall, not focused on you, career expert Amanda Augustine says it’s likely not a good sign.
“If the interview has barely begun and your interviewer is already eyeing the clock, fidgeting with her jewelry, or messing with his phone, it’s pretty clear you’ve lost — or never had — their attention,” she continues.
Good: Smiling and nodding
If someone smiles, they’re into you, right? Not so much, according to Palmer. Especially in professional settings, smiling is a way of being polite, no matter if they’re excited to meet you or not. However, when they smile and nod along to your response, it’s an indication that they are actually listening and interested in you. It’s important to return the smile — but to also remain cool and collected. You want to appear happy and comfortable, as well as confident, but not overboard.