The next time you are conducting a job interview, be sure to pay attention to the job candidate’s body language.  Their non verbal cues could make or break the deal.  Here are some tips for reading a candidate by their body language.

tips on reading a candidate by their body lanuage

Before the interview

An excellent way to get a snapshot of people’s true inner feelings and attitudes is to observe their “resting face,” the expression worn when they’re not interacting with anyone. A negative resting face, among other things, makes someone less approachable to others.

Come in to my office
An applicant walking in tall and taking fairly brisk strides, shows some confidence and enthusiasm. Candidates dragging or shuffling their feet or taking short choppy strides are less assured.

The handshake
When someone offers you a firm, palm-to-palm handshake accompanied by direct eye contact and a pleasant smile, this shows the person to be confident, interested and sincere. An affable smile sets the stage for a congenial interaction, sends a positive message and adds some warmth to what can feel like a cold process.

Have a Seat
Confidence; interest and alertness are projected when prospective employees sit tall in their chair. Someone who leans slightly forward while you’re speaking is usually engaged in what you are saying. Slouching in a chair can be a sign of indifference. If someone is perched on the edge of the chair, that person is probably nervous or overly eager. Leaning or tipping back in a chair, especially with hands clasped behind the head, is a gesture of arrogance and disdain.

Eye Contact
A desirable job prospect maintains good eye contact. When someone fails to look you in the eye, it can mean that individual is nervous, introverted, disinterested or even dishonest. On the other hand, if someone’s gaze turns into a stare, it may signify aggression or fear. Applicants who stare blankly are showing disinterest in actively participating in the interview process.

Hands, Arms, Feet and Legs
Job prospects who place their hands calmly on their lap are confident and relaxed. When an applicant articulates with open hands and palms visible, this is an indication of sincerity, openness and warmth. Crossed arms send a negative vibe and show the person to be closed off, defensive or in disagreement with what you are saying. Crossed arms and legs together may convey a very reserved and suspicious nature. If someone rests an ankle on the other knee, this reflects an arrogant or overly casual attitude.

It ain’t over till the applicant exits
You can tell a lot about a job candidate’s genuine self by observing that person in closing. When they get up out of the chair, and walk to the exit, are they still confident and comfortable? Or are they hesitant and slumped?

During the job interview process, never underestimate the value of nonverbal communication. Being able to read body language can be significantly instrumental in finding the right candidate for a particular job.


Be sure to read our tips on identifying a positive working environment and how to identify a hostile work environment too.

The best piece of recruitment advice we can give you may seem obvious, but the amount of times we have to deal with distraught employers, who could have saved themselves a lot of disappointment by performing a thorough background check.

recruitment advice do a thorough background check
  1. Take the reference checking process seriously

It’s frightening to think of the number of people who will actually bring someone into their organisation relying on the feedback gained from a 2-minute phone conversation. Perhaps trusting a 2-line email; or maybe without even carrying out any reference checks at all. They’re usually badly burnt after 3 – 6 months of the new employee being in the job.

2. Conduct at least 2 verbal reference checks

There are candidates out there who look great on paper but who perform poorly during interview. But there are also candidates who perform very well during interview but once they are on the job it’s a different story altogether. That is why you need to get an idea of how they performed in an actual job from a previous employer. Before you bring anybody new into your team you should really carry out two verbal reference checks. It’s the perfect way for you to understand how they really perform on the job.

3. Plan your questions carefully

When you are speaking to a candidate’s former supervisor. You need to think back to the core skills as well as the core competencies and key success measures that you had created for the job. If during your interview you asked the candidate questions around communication, decision-making and time management, you should then ask the referee exactly the same questions. The questions you ask should prompt the candidate’s former supervisor to talk about the candidate’s actual past experiences and behaviour .

 4. You’re allowed to ask one hypothetical question

One question you might also want to consider asking at the very end of every conversation with a referee is something along the lines of “So would you ever re-employ [insert name here]?”. This should be the only hypothetical question in the entire discussion. But the answer to this question can speak volumes.

5. Take detailed notes

It’s always a relief when you hear positive feedback about the candidate you are so desperate to hire. In fact you may have even already made them an offer (I’ll leave tips around making an offer subject to references for another time). But it’s still important to take notes during your calls with past employers. You never know when you might need to refer back to some of the comments further down the track (e.g., during performance reviews).

6. Beware of fake referees

You wouldn’t believe how many so-called professional candidates out there will provide fake referees. When someone is desperate to get a new job, they’ll resort to anything. Make sure you’re really talking to a previous employer. Do your due diligence. If a candidate gives you the details of a past boss, check them out on LinkedIn, and ideally call them on a land line at the organisation. Better still, after you’ve spoken to them, connect with them on LinkedIn and thank them for taking the time to speak to you. You’ll quickly find out if you actually spoke with an ‘imposter’.


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Don’t forget to check out our tips on creating a positive working environment and how to recognise a hostile environment.