non verbal communication

Nonverbal Communication: What Your Candidate Isn’t Telling You

Interviewers are consummate multi-taskers: asking questions, listening to responses, drilling down, writing notes … You know what your candidate is telling you, but are you taking the time to observe what they are showing you?

Nonverbal communication is a subtle and valuable part of the interview process. It’s all about the signals your candidates are sending you in their body language, dress and paralanguage, which includes speech intonation, gestures and facial expressions.

Here are three aspects of nonverbal communication we aim to observe at interview:


Is your candidate well turned out? Candidates who want to make a good impression will dress for success. It’s easy to spot the candidate who has chosen their interview outfit with care and paid attention to their personal grooming.


As a general rule, candidates speak for 80% of the time during an interview and interviewers the remaining 20%. Does your candidate listen when it’s your turn to speak? Attentive candidates will listen to what you are saying without interrupting. They will also tend to answer the questions you are asking without digressing.


Confident candidates will start and end the interview with a firm handshake. They’ll sit in an upright, but comfortable, position, often leaning forward to engage more closely with you. They will maintain your gaze, but not stare you down or let their eyes wander around the room. Candidates who are genuinely interested in the job will show energy and enthusiasm through a positive attitude, including nods, smiles and laughter (at appropriate times).

What a candidate shows you can provide valuable insights into their personality and interest in the job. Our tips come with a couple of caveats, however:

  • Interview techniques can be learnt. A candidate who maintains your gaze and radiates positivity may not be telling you the truth
  • A wandering gaze, tapping feet and inappropriate laughter may be the signs of a nervous, anxious candidate who is unable to perform at their best at interview.

Nonverbal communication is just one aspect of the candidate assessment process. It should always be considered alongside other information, such as a candidate’s verbal responses to your questions, their resume, performance on skills tests and professional references.

Which aspects of nonverbal communication do you consider important at interview stage?