How to interpret body language cues during an interview?

When interviewing potential employees, it's important to get an idea of who they are. Are they confident or shy? Aggressive or a team player? Are they suited to a supervisory role such as project manager, or would they shine in a staff position? An interviewer must understand the candidate's qualifications and personality to answer these questions. To do this, it is important not only to listen to what they say, but also to observe their body language.
A woman does a handstand on a street.


What is body language?

Body language refers to the non-verbal signals and cues that individuals convey through their body movements, posture, gestures and facial expressions. While verbal communication includes the spoken or written words we use to express ourselves, body language provides an additional layer of communication that can reveal our true thoughts, feelings and intentions. It is a powerful form of expression that can greatly influence how others perceive us.
Our body language can convey a wealth of information about our emotions, attitudes and confidence levels, often unconsciously. It plays a crucial role in many social interactions, including job interviews. Understanding and interpreting body language cues during an interview can provide valuable insights into a candidate's suitability for a position and help interviewers make more informed decisions.
By paying attention to the subtle signals and cues expressed through body language, both interviewers and interviewees can gain a deeper understanding of each other beyond the spoken words. It allows for a more complete assessment of a candidate's qualifications, personality traits and overall compatibility with the company culture.

Importance of body language in job interviews

The importance of body language in job interviews cannot be overstated. While candidates focus on demonstrating their qualifications and skills through their words, it is equally important to pay attention to their body language as it provides valuable insights into their true self and emotional state.
During an interview, candidates strive to make a positive impression and demonstrate their professionalism, competence and suitability for the role. However, it is common for individuals to consciously or unconsciously modify their behaviour to match what they think the interviewer wants to see. They may try to appear more energetic, confident or even likeable than they actually are. This desire to be liked and selected for the position can lead candidates to adopt behaviours that do not truly reflect their authentic selves.
By observing and analysing a candidate's body language, interviewers can gain a deeper understanding of who they really are and how they are feeling during the interview process. It allows interviewers to go beyond superficial responses and assess the candidate's true qualities, attitudes and suitability for the job.


A handshake is a familiar first gesture for establishing trust. It's a well-known body language sign used in many different cultures. A firm handshake is a sign of confidence, but if the handshake is too firm, it can be a sign of aggression. A nervous or shy person will sometimes have a weak handshake. Of course, it's always a good look if the handshake is accompanied by a genuine smile and some eye contact.

Body Posture

Slouching shows a lack of confidence and respect, while a tense body shows nervousness. A person who walks in with a relaxed, yet upright posture is a good sign. But don't dismiss a nervous body at first sight. Continue the interview until you see that their nervousness could be a problem.
Sitting up straight and leaning forward is a good sign. This posture shows that the candidate is engaged and eager to talk. However, if the person is too close to you, intruding on your personal space, that's a red flag. Shoulder movements are also a good indicator. If their body is stiff, they may be insecure, nervous or lying.

Eye Contact

Maintaining good eye contact is a sign of confidence and shows that the person is engaged in the conversation. On the other hand, if the person is staring intently into your eyes, they may be being rude or trying to stare you down. At the same time, not making eye contact can be a sign that someone is shy. Looking away also doesn't mean they're lying, and it's very common for someone who is remembering or thinking to look away for a moment.


Gestures are as expressive as words, especially arm and hand movements. They're a way of communicating in almost every culture. They help us to express ourselves and are often used for emphasis. However, too many hand and arm movements can make a person appear dramatic.
Touching the face and fidgeting is a sign that the candidate is nervous, while touching the neck is their way of trying to comfort themselves. Crossing arms can be distancing. It indicates that the person is insecure and possibly defensive. While tapping the feet can show that the person is uncomfortable with the question being asked or thinks the interview is going on too long.

Guidelines for using observing body language during interviews

When it comes to observing and interpreting body language during interviews, there are several guidelines that can help interviewers make accurate assessments and gain valuable insights. By following these guidelines, interviewers can improve their understanding of candidates and make more informed hiring decisions. Let's look at these guidelines in more detail.

Understand cause and effect

Understanding cause and effect is essential when analysing body language during an interview. While body language provides valuable insights, it should be seen as part of a wider context. By considering other known factors, such as environmental conditions or individual circumstances, we can avoid jumping to false conclusions. For example, crossed hands may indicate defensiveness, but could also be a response to feeling cold in a chilly room. Similarly, excessive blinking may be interpreted as nervousness, but it could be due to dry lenses. A comprehensive approach that takes into account various factors will ensure a more accurate interpretation of body language cues and prevent potential misinterpretations. It is therefore essential to integrate body language analysis with other relevant information and observations to form a well-rounded assessment of a candidate's suitability for the job.

Observe extreme behaviour

Observing extreme behaviour during interviews can provide valuable insights into a candidate's suitability for a role. While some nervousness is natural and doesn't necessarily indicate incompetence, it's important to look for behaviours that have a significant impact on their ability to perform and integrate into the organisation. Constantly checking their phone during the interview or struggling to answer questions effectively can signal a lack of focus, preparedness or professionalism, which can hinder their potential contribution to the organisation. However, it's important to consider the context and overall performance of the candidate before making a final judgement, as nerves can sometimes subside as they settle into the role.

Spot the difference

Observing any differences in a candidate's body language between the beginning and the end of the interview can provide valuable insights into their comfort level and possible withholding of information. If their posture or non-verbal cues change noticeably, this may indicate hidden information or discomfort. For example, the candidate may begin to display nervous behaviours such as tapping their foot or touching their nose during the interview. In such situations, it is important not to disqualify the candidate immediately, but to probe further by asking specific questions to address any concerns or gather the necessary information.
By paying attention to these subtle changes, interviewers can delve deeper into the reasons behind the changing body language and gain a fuller understanding of the candidate's thoughts and emotions. It is important to create an environment that encourages open communication so that candidates feel comfortable sharing any additional information that may affect their performance or candidacy.


Body language cues play an important role in assessing potential candidates during interviews. By carefully observing and interpreting these cues, we can gain insights into a person's personality traits and assess their honesty and suitability for a position. However, it is important to consider external factors that may influence their behaviour and to avoid jumping to conclusions based on body language alone.
It is important to remember that body language analysis should not be used in isolation, but should be integrated with other assessment factors such as qualifications, experience and interview responses. By taking a comprehensive approach, interviewers can make a more rounded assessment of candidates and select individuals who are not only qualified but also a good fit with the organisation's culture and values.

Body language - the author
Author: Dione Smith is a writer at BC Jobs and career success Australia, a platform that provides career coaching in Australia. They offer a wide range of internship programs in information technology, engineering, and business. Career coaching programs include building your LinkedIn profile, resume writing, interview training, and cover letter writing.
Keywords: Project management, Body language, Tips, Career as a project manager

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