Wouldn’t the job search process be grand if we could send in our resume, skip the interview process, and be awarded a job offer?
Of course – it would eliminate what is arguably the most difficult part of the job search! The interview process can often feel more like a game of poker than two humans holding a conversation to achieve a common goal: to fill a job opening at a company. And when the interviewer has their poker face on at all times, the challenge to connect becomes rather daunting.
But just like in a game of poker – an interviewer often has ‘tells‘ that reveal what they are thinking or feeling.
In the midst of the interview, you may find yourself unable to pick up on the subtle cues from the interviewer. But if you know which signs to look for, you can adjust appropriately.
How to Read and React to the Interviewer’s Body Language
Facial Expressions and Cues
- Raised Eyebrows
Raising one’s eyebrows is almost a universal sign of surprise. If you are making eye contact with your interviewer (and you should be), it should be easy to catch.
Pay attention to their expression and note when they react to your responses. If you’ve said something that could be considered conflicting, incorrect, or controversial, address it with the interviewer. Body Language Expert Susan Constantine suggests that you take a pause and clarify your statement with the interviewer, or ask if they see things differently.
- Not Making Eye Contact
Unless you are in a group interview, an interviewer should only have two places to look: at your resume, or at you. An interviewer who is looking anywhere else is most likely distracted, or worse – disinterested. If you find they are avoiding eye contact for an extended period of time, quickly get to the point you are making and then turn the table; start asking the interviewer questions. You will force them to listen, think, and respond.
- Smiling, Direct Eye Contact, And Nodding
Doesn’t get much better than that in an interview, does it? You’ve hooked the interviewer at this point, so proceed through the interview by matching their energy. You may find they will start to match your body language which implies they are synchronized with you.
- Sitting Forward VS. Leaning Back
An interviewer who is sitting forward, potentially with arms crossed on the desk in front of them, is likely interested and engaged with what you have to say. Leaning back, with arms folded across chest, tends to say quite the opposite. It’s a sign of boredom, lack of engagement, and sometimes arrogance.
It’s always possible that an interviewer may intentionally try to show disinterest and make you feel some pressure. If you find yourself in this situation, consider addressing the elephant in the room and ask them how they feel the interview is going so far. It’s a dicey move, but you may get them to loosen up.
Also read: How to Survive a Stress Interview (and Land the Job)
- The Direction They Point Their Body
Business Coach Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.d, suggests that an interviewer who is engaged will be sitting with their entire body pointed towards you. Their head, shoulders, arms and legs should be aligned with you. It may not be easy to detect but if their feet are pointed towards the exit, they probably are more interested in walking out the door.
- Tapping or Fidgeting
Be on the lookout for small tics: tapping the desk with their pointer finger, bouncing leg, shifting in their chair. It’s not always a sign that your interview is going downhill – but it may be a sign that the interviewer needs to speed up the conversation and make it to their 2 o’clock meeting on time. You can react by finishing your thoughts a bit faster, or only providing a certain amount of information before asking if they would like for you to go into greater detail.