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Nonverbal Cues to Watch Out for During an Interview

June 13th, 2014

If you notice any of these nonverbal gestures during your interview process, make a mental note and do some cross checking. Some additional follow-up can help you make sure this cue is a random fluke, not a sign of trouble.

1. Hiding the mouth or covering the face.

As they speak, job candidates (just like all of us) have to do something to occupy their hands. Sometimes they prop their elbows on the table and let both hands move in front of them in order to emphasize their points. Sometimes they keep their arms relaxed on the arm rests of the chair, but their hands still move in a way that animates their words and reveals their feelings. Both of these are fine and perfectly natural, but watch out for a candidate who tents his fingers or makes a fist and then props his hands up in front of his mouth. This gesture can suggest that the speaker has something to hide.

2. Robotic posture and body language.

Candidates are constantly counseled to sit up straight, make eye contact, and shake hands firmly. But watch out for any candidate who takes this advice so literally that it’s painful to speak with her. A calm, focused gaze is okay. But a candidate who stares you down like a hungry lion may come with a personality that’s excessively literal, oblivious to nuance, socially awkward, and easily rattled. This may be fine (and may even be a perfect match for some workplace cultures), but it can be a problem if the job entails social networking and face time with clients.

3. Excessive nervous energy.

All job candidates are nervous, and there’s nothing suspect about a minor degree of foot tapping or pen twirling while the candidate struggles to collect her thoughts and channel her anxiety. But if this nervous energy derails the conversation, watch out. If your candidate laughs too loudly at his own jokes, trips over himself, bursts into tears, loses his train of thought over and over, or simply melts down under the pressure of the situation, something is wrong. This extreme response to a relatively non-threatening scenario suggests a lack of life experience and emotional control.

4. Defensiveness.

Watch out for candidates who show signs of resentment or resistance to the interview process. If you ask your interviewee why he left his last job and he stiffens and refuses to answer, make a note. And of course, signs of anger, hostility, and aggression have absolutely no place in a job interview and should be considered immediate grounds for rejection.

For more insight on the nonverbal cues and gestures that can speak volumes about your candidates, reach out to the staffing and management experts at Merritt.

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