Body Language Revealed

by Kristy Amburgey

The last interviewee fidgeted and made me nervous.  This one talked too fast and said too much.  He cleared his throat every few words.  That guy looked off into the distance as if he was trying to see through the wall.  One person maintained eye contact, which was great, but she only maintained eye contact with one person and avoided looking at the others.  That earlier guy practically had his feet propped up on the chair and appeared way too casual.

This group of interviewers heard your answers, but they also observed more than what you said.  They were looking at your non-verbal cues, or body language, to learn just as much about you as what you said.  Even though your answers were appropriate, you may have lost out on the job solely based on your body language.

Sure, your answers are important, and the information you state is valuable in the evaluation process.  But your answers combined with your body language gives the interviewers a more complete picture of you as a candidate. Just like providing concrete examples from your past when you answer a question, you can support and prove what you say with positive, confident body language.

Here are some of the negative non-verbal cues communicated and how the actions may be perceived during interviews.  These actions should be minimized or avoided as best you can.

  • Crossing arms (or holding objects in front of your body) = unapproachable or defensive
  • Sitting in your seat casually, leaning back = not taking this conversation seriously
  • Sitting on the edge of your seat = uncomfortable or anxious
  • Not maintaining consistent eye contact =  uncomfortable or not interested in what is being said
  • Looking off into the corners of the room or at the floor =  unprepared, unfocused or making up an answer
  • Fidgeting (or tapping your foot or fingers, playing with a pen or jewelry) = anxiety or boredom
  • Nail biting (or twirling strands of hair) = nervous
  • Slouching = unsure of yourself
  • Hands on your hip = aggressive
  • Inappropriate dress (sloppy grooming, too much cologne) = unprofessional or unaware of the expectations of a work environment
  • Being immobile or rigid = scared
  • Hanging your head = unconfident or insecure
  • Speaking too quietly or too quickly (or clearing throat too often) = nervous or not wanting to be noticed
  • Speaking in a monotone voice = not interested in the subject matter or not enthusiastic
  • Touching the face or hiding your mouth with your hand (or shrugging) = not giving truthful information

Here are some tips related to positive non-verbal communication to implement into your interview.

  • Smile
  • Maintain eye contact with everyone present without staring
  • Dress professionally, adhering to industry and company standards of professional dress
  • Sitting and standing up straight
  • Nod your head to engage the person or to confirm you understand him or her
  • Keep your speaking voice even but expressive especially when conveying enthusiasm and passion

What you say with your hands, facial expressions, eyes, movements and more conveys many different messages.   Even though you may not be able to prevent yourself from all your conscious or unconscious tics, you can work, via practice, observation and feedback, on minimizing your negative non-verbal clues and maximizing your body language to convey positive information.  Make sure you leave the interviewers raving about your confidence, knowledge, personality and attitude through what you said and what you did not say.

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.


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