Non-verbal behavior in an interview

AUTHOR: Darlene Zambruski
POSTED: December 22, 2009 at 10:28 am

Being called in to interview is one of the most exciting times of a candidate’s job search. You get a haircut, perhaps a manicure. You make certain your business wear is spotless, your appearance impeccable.

Warning yourself not to show fear, to keep your voice steady and your eyes on the interviewer, you believe you’re ready. After all, you have the talent to fill the position and you’ve researched the job responsibilities and company thoroughly.

Good for you. But there may be one aspect of the interview you’ve forgotten about – non-verbal behavior.

Your Demeanor Speaks Volumes

Hiring managers are trained to look for nuances in a candidate’s personality that will tell them far more than words ever could. Here’s some of the things you should watch out for:

  1. Crossing your arms. Never cross your arms over your chest, it’s a defensive position. Even if you’re smiling and laughing with the recruiter or hiring manager, it’s off-putting. When standing, let your arms hang at your sides. When sitting, fold your hands in your lap and keep them there while the interviewer is speaking.
  2. Tapping your fingers or a pen against the arm of your chair, your lap, a desk – whatever. Don’t do it. It shows impatience. Even if you can’t wait to jump in and tell the interviewer how great you are, retain a composed posture. Keep your fingers from dancing.
  3. Shifting in your seat or from foot to foot. It makes you look nervous, which you probably are. If necessary, lock your knees while standing to keep yourself from moving too much. When you first seat yourself, make certain you’re as comfortable as you can be, given the circumstances, and then make a concentrated effort to stay just as you are. Excessive movement is distracting. You want the interviewer to notice your skills, not your fidgeting.
  4. Darting eyes. If you’re constantly looking away while the interviewer is speaking or while you’re speaking, the other individual will come to one of two conclusions: you’re so bored you can’t keep focused or you’re trying to hide something. Now that doesn’t mean you stare down the interviewer. You can glance away at appropriate intervals. Just don’t do it too much.
  5. Standing too close. It’s an aggressive stance and will put off an interviewer, especially if you’re a man and she’s a woman. Keep an appropriate, arm’s length distance.
  6. A stony-expression or a smirk. Neither is attractive. If you have no expression, the interviewer might think you’re difficult to work with. Everyone wants to deal with a pleasant personality not a cipher. A smirk will make you seem arrogant. Even if you don’t agree with what the interviewer is saying or you believe you’re too good for the job, make certain your facial expression doesn’t reveal it.


  • Doug

    These are excellent tips and non-verbal behavior is sometimes overlooked by the interviewee. People tend to forget that every nuance and movement is noted by an experienced interviewer. I don’t think that I have seen this level of detail elsewhere on the internet. Great job on this!