(212) 406-5800

Close this search box.

124 non-verbal communication signs for interview

I totally made that number up. As my regular readers (of course, I think that may just be colleagues) will know, these articles with numbers in their title annoy me, so I came up with a silly number.  “I’m not supposed to remember 124 things to do/not do in interview, am I?” Nope, you’re safe. But there are some useful tips on non-verbal communication in general, and body language in particular, that could improve your interview chances.
Hand up to cover mouth/ brushing imaginary lint from trouser leg or skirt/ crossing your arms in front of yourselfas you answer a difficult question = YOU’RE LYING. The HR Manager may have gone to a training session where they taught this stuff so he or she will spot it immediately. You don’t have to remember all the signs. When you’re being interviewed, the one thing to remember is NOT TO LIE, then your body language won’t give you away. Simple, really.
Of course, if you’re asked a difficult question (“Why did they fire you?”) then a good staffing service consultant will have helped you with a truthful but positive answer.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming. A whole topic for a Master’s thesis, never mind a “Margaret Says” blog, so I’ll stick with one relevant example. 99% of people, when asked to remember something (“Where did you file that report?”) raise their eyes to the left to aid their memory. 99% of people, when telling big fibs — “When did you say you finished the report?”– raise their eyes to the right when they’re imagining a good answer, but trying to make it look as though they’re searching their memory. “Last week,” you lie, while inwardly thinking, “Blimey, better finish it tonight”. Again, you don’t have to remember that body language tip, which is an extremely useful one for Customs and Immigration Officers and Police Officers, but not so crucial in everyday life. The thing to remember is NOT TO LIE.
So…in interview, when asked an awkward question, about salary, performance reviews, what you thought of your ex-boss, tell the truth. There are many ways to tell the truth – your staffing service counsellor knows several of them to help you sugar coat your honest answer.  
Dress appropriately. What does this have to do with non-verbal communication, you ask bemusedly? Wearing a low-cut blouse, a grubby tie, a creased suit sends a message about the type of person the interviewer will think you are. The interviewers may be right or they may have misjudged, but none of what they think based on those three examples will be good. I’ve mentioned what to wear at interview in another blog, whether it’s for buttoned-up financial company or nerdy techy company, so won’t repeat it here.
Handshake. Somewhere between a dead fish handshake, and a macho-Vin-Diesel’s-got-nothing-on-me bone-crusher. If you have friends, family, colleagues who know you’re looking for a new job, ask if you can practice on them. If you live in a hippy commune where everyone hugs, DON’T (Listen, I don’t make this stuff up. My memoirs will sell like hot cakes).  
Eye contact. Some is good. None is weird and makes you look shifty/in need of psychotherapy. Too much makes you look like a candidate for one of those forensic programs on television about stalkers. This particular tip is one that you will have to remember, so you can vary your gaze. The thing is, if you’re not too stressed and treat the interview more or less like normal conversation, it’ll come naturally, so try to enjoy the interview. HR Managers or the department don’t want to interview someone who’s so uncomfortable you make THEM uncomfortable.
Mind those irritating mannerisms! If you don’t know what to do with your hands and don’t want to come across as a sparrow’s wings flailing about in the strawberry patch netting at one end of the scale or recently deceased at the other end, then put them on the arms of the chair. Armless chair? Rest them lightly, palms down, on your thighs.  You may even relax and find yourself using your hands to emphasize a point.
Inappropriate smells. I’m thinking perfume, aftershave here. I’m kinda assuming everything else, including yourself, is freshly washed or dry cleaned. A stupid number of people think they have tremendously sensitive olfactory skills and bang on about it e.g. “Her perfume gave me a headache for the rest of the day”. I’m not convinced they’re not raging hypochondriacs but they may be the hypochondriacs with the power to send you on, or not, to the next stage of the recruitment process. It’s therefore frankly best not to wear any perfume, cologne or aftershave. Annoying, but no-one said life was fair.