Nearly every job candidate you interview will be aware of the basics of appropriate body language in the interview situation. You can probably rattle the basics off the top of your head right now:  firm handshake, ready smile, good posture, steady eye contact, etc. These “nonverbals” are by now part of every candidate’s first impression repertoire, as familiar as the recommendation to dress sharp but conservatively and to wear little in the way of accessories, scents, and jewelry. Since, by and large, candidates will have learned to control and choreograph the basic nonverbals, if you really want to get a read on them through body language, you’ll need to dig a little deeper. But once you get there, these cues could lead you straight to candidate gold.

Beware False Cues

First off, as any body communications specialist will tell you, there are at least as many false nonverbals to look out for as genuine cues. Remember, the interview situation is especially fraught with stress and anxiety. You and the candidate may be meeting for the first time in person; a number of your co-workers or even your own boss may be involved in the process. With so much at stake, and so many unknowns, it’s not uncommon for good or even great candidates to suffer a meltdown. Keep in mind that everyone handles stress differently — and there are different kinds of stress. The stress of public speaking, which is more or less what the interview is, can break an otherwise highly competent candidate. In other words, don’t judge too hastily when it comes to nerves. Sometimes nervousness just belies a painfully shy, painfully honest workhorse who has trouble being publicly scrutinized. And on the flipside, that cool as a cucumber candidate could be, well, one very cold, manipulative operator.

Mirroring and Matching

Like nerves, mirroring and matching can be another source of false cues. According to studies on the subject, this phenomenon develops as rapport builds between two people — or, the interviewer and interviewee. As the interview unfolds, you may both find yourself unconsciously syncing body movements. You might start to nod or even blink at the same time. Harmless as it may sound, the reason mirroring and matching is dangerous is because it can create a false sense of trust or kinship, leading you to select the wrong candidate.

Take a Walk

As one body communications specialist suggested, the best way to flush out a candidate’s true self during an interview is to break out of the interview context — to take a tour of the office. It’s probably best to do this prior to the interview, before a candidate’s adrenaline is really pumping. After you greet them in the waiting area, invite them to stroll around the office or plant with you. Then — and here’s the key — introduce them to a few different levels of employee from your company. Ideally, this would be a worker, a manager, and an executive. Then assess how they react. Pay close attention to their body language. Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • How quickly did the candidate smile? Did he or she set the employee at ease? How long did that process take? Did they make eye contact? Did they show genuine interest? What questions did they ask?

Next, you’ll want to consider specific issues related to the position the candidate is going for:

  • If it’s a sales or service position, and I was a client, would I like this person? Would I trust them? If it’s a command position, does this person have presence and authority? Do I respect them?

Finally, think about how the candidate handled each employee differently:

  • Do they seem like they’d get along with employees at every level? Were they deferential or standoffish to the authority figure? How would they fit into the overall workplace culture?


Now that you’ve gotten a closer look at what their body says about them nonverbally, you can conduct the interview and hear what the candidate says about his or herself verbally. Then compare the two. You’ll be amazed at how much more confident you’ll feel in your assessment.

For more information on the hiring process and other employment-related issues, please contact the experienced recruiting team at Masiello.