June 11, 2013
Interviewers' nonverbal cues offer important clues
A friend of mine recently had a job interview. When I asked what the interviewer thought of him, he didn't know. He'd been so nervous that he had forgotten to pay attention to the hiring manager's nonverbal communication.
That happens a lot. Most people are so worried about how they come across in an interview that they forget to watch the body language of the interviewer. But being able to read nonverbal cues can increase your chances of interview success.
This is because the way interviewers react and move their body can demonstrate whether they're listening or bored, whether they agree with what you're saying, whether they believe you'd be a good fit for the job. Look for these nonverbal cues:
Facial expression. If the interviewer is smiling and looks interested in what you're saying, great. If he or she appears confused (furrowed brow or one eyebrow raised), disgusted (both eyebrows raised and shakes head side to side) or uninterested (unexpressive face or glazed eyes), then take note.
These expressions mean the interviewer might not understand what you've said, might disagree with your comments or could have become bored with a long-winded answer. Look for these cues so you can adjust your behavior -- such as quickly wrapping up your answer if his or her facial expression shows disinterest.
Eye contact. If the interview is going well, the hiring manager should be making regular eye contact. Pay attention to cues that could indicate things are going awry, such as the interviewer looking around the room, glancing at the clock on the wall or looking down at a watch or notepad a lot.
These behaviors could mean that you're rambling, or that he or she is ready to move on to the next question -- or has already made a decision about you as a candidate.
Posture. Ideally, the hiring manager's posture is relaxed and he/she is leaning forward, demonstrating engagement and interest. If the interviewer is stiff, or is leaning back and crossing his/her legs, feet and/or arms, beware. These cues can signify anxiety or discomfort and could indicate that he/she doesn't believe you're a good fit for the job or that your answers aren't right.
Gestures. Positive gestures are taking notes, nodding "yes" and laughing at your funny stories. Cues to watch out for are crossed arms while leaning back, cocked head to one side with a raised eyebrow and shaking head "no" while verbally responding "yes."
If you're unsure of something, don't be afraid to check with the interviewer. You could say, "It looks like I might have confused you with my answer. Were you looking for specific examples or for my overall philosophy about people management?"
Being aware of nonverbal cues will allow you to modify your behavior during the interview and increase your chances of success. Next week: Nonverbal mistakes you should avoid in a job interview.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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