What is Your Body Language Telling Your Candidates?

December 22nd, 2011 | Hiring Resources | No Comments »

If you have an open position or two that you’ve been earnestly trying to fill, no doubt you’ve become an expert at conducting an interview. In fact, you now know the art of interviewing inside out, in your sleep.

You know what the best questions are as well as the best answers, you know how to get insight into the person behind the suit, and you know what their slightest hint of body language means about their personality, attitude, and emotions.

But the question is, have you looked in the mirror recently? No, this isn’t about your new hairstyle or freshly laundered suit. The real question is, do you know what your own body language looks like during an interview?

It’s easy to become so focused on reading your interviewee that you overlook what kind of impression you’re giving and message you’re conveying on behalf of your company.

Here’s a quick run down of the mistakes it’s all too easy to fall into without ever realizing it.

Body Language: Having your legs crossed while shaking the top leg.

Message: The shaking leg portrays the image that you’re uncomfortable and nervous, or even bored and impatient. To the curious interviewee, this may say something about how you feel about the company or your position in it. Or, it could throw off a candidate entirely, leading to a misjudged impression on both sides. Keep that shaky leg still and you’ll show confidence and engagement, resulting in a better interview.

Body Language: Drumming your fingers or rubbing your face.

Message: Both of these gestures are clear signs of annoyance. If a candidate senses you’re annoyed with the interview or with them, they’re not likely to open up enough to judge their candidacy fairly. Or, they may become annoyed themselves, which makes for an overall negative experience for both of you. So try to be aware of and avoid those movements, and if you truly are annoyed, it’s a good idea to hide it.

Body Language: Leaning back while folding your arms across your chest or resting your ankle on the opposite knee.

Message: This move makes it appear that you are judging them or are skeptical. This clear arrogance can spark a negative reaction from someone who may have otherwise been a great candidate. It can also be very intimidating to a nervous candidate, which will hinder their interview performance. Instead, keep your arms down and your feet on the floor.

Body Language: Too much smiling.

Message: You may be trying to be friendly and make your candidate feel more comfortable, but put on that smile a little too much, and you’ll risk scaring off your candidate. A prolonged smile can make an interviewee feel as though you’re not taking them seriously or that you’re laughing at them. Put on a bit more serious of a face between those welcoming smiles, and your candidate will be more at ease.

Body Language: Pointing your feet or leaning your body towards the door.

Message: Maybe you have other work to do or maybe it’s late in the day, and all you want to do is get out of there. Either way, this subtle movement can reveal those very feelings, which can make your candidate feel as if he’s wasting your time. He’ll rush through his answers nervously, which will make it harder for you to evaluate him properly. Make sure you’re fully present in the interview, and don’t point your feet or lean your body towards your only exit.

Body Language: Leaning back while clasping your hands.

Message: This gesture can make you appear completely disinterested in the interview and what your interviewee has to say. And if the perception is that you don’t care, they’ll become negative and stopping caring, too, which once again makes for a pretty pointless interview. Your best bet is to lean slightly forward and keep your hands in your lap or on the desk.

Ultimately, your body language communicates a lot to your candidates. And while you are understandably human and it’s natural to get bored, annoyed, and generally disengaged, you are still conducting a professional interview, and it’s important to treat your candidate with respect. Plus, your in-the-moment feelings and thoughts shouldn’t be in a factor in evaluating each candidate objectively.

If you don’t take control of your body language in an interview, the potentially negative impression you inadvertently give a candidate may turn him or her against your company, which is bad news if they were your best candidate. Simply be aware of your own actions, and then you can get back being that interview expert you’ve become!

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