Job interviews: how to master the art of nonverbal communication

Aug 25, 2022 - updated Oct 25, 2023

5 mins

Job interviews: how to master the art of nonverbal communication
Ingrid Dupichot

Freelance Content Writer

You’ve spent hours polishing your résumé, practicing your pitch, and choosing your top skills to list. You know your speech inside-out and you feel ready for the final-round job interview. However, success isn’t only about what you say. The key lies in your nonverbal communication. Whether it’s unconscious or perfectly prepared, your behavior influences the other person’s judgment. Your gestures and postures send signals to the recruiter.

So, how can you decipher the signs of nonverbal communication in an interview? And how can you master it and boost your confidence? Here’s our advice for better communication that will leave a good impression on the recruiter.

What is nonverbal communication?

Imagine yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. You read over a candidate’s cover letter while waiting for them to arrive. When sitting in front of you, they explain why they are the ideal person for the role. As a recruiter, you’ll learn a lot more about the applicant once you meet them than you would by just reading their cover letter. Why is that? In a discussion, nonverbal communication, i.e. the exchange of information without words, is one of the most important aspects of communication.

This is why the job interview is such a crucial step in the recruitment process, as it’s the first chance for the recruiter to see the candidate in person and observe their body language and demeanor. Body language can be read through several behaviors:

  • Body attitudes: how you move your hands, position your head, place your eyes, place your arms, etc.
  • Facial expressions and facial mimics: how you smile, blink, frown, keep your mouth open, if you show a relaxed face, or scrunch up your forehead
  • Physiological manifestations: if you blush, sweat, shake
  • The tone of your voice: whether you have a calm voice or speak very fast, if you stutter, how loudly you speak.

How important is verbal and nonverbal communication?

Nonverbal communication consists of all elements of communication except words. That is to say, the tone of voice used and the visual appearance of the person speaking (body language and physical appearance). It’s an important element of charm in a job interview. When there’s a discrepancy between what you say and how you act, your emotional signals become contradictory, and this can be spotted a mile away. The recruiter will suspect that you’re uncomfortable, in conflict with yourself, or uncomfortable with the position. It’s also a way for them to detect lies, insecurities, and doubts.

How to improve your nonverbal communication

Louis Augustin Calonne is a behavioral analysis consultant and synergologist (synergology is the practice of gestural profiling that allows us to understand and decipher the nonverbal). Calonne advises and assists professionals in recruitment and negotiations. While he does not provide a ready-made recipe for adapting one’s language, according to him, common sense and authenticity are essential. He gives us his advice on how to remain natural and appear at ease.

1. Tell the truth and don’t exaggerate

While this tip may seem obvious, it’s nonetheless key in good nonverbal communication. The more authentic and aligned you are with your values, the more confidence you exude. If you’re not excited about your new venture and you’re faking enthusiasm, your body will eventually tell you. You start twiddling your thumbs and avoiding eye contact, and you lack spontaneity. The recruiter will see right through you in no time. The trick is to know how to tell the truth without being misleading. Let’s be honest, it’s not always easy, but we have gathered the best techniques to combine transparency and diplomacy in an interview.

2. Be prepared and be sure of your choice!

Being well prepared for an interview also means knowing the position, the company, the sector, and the work environment that would suit you. Being sure of your choice will help you gain confidence. It’s also key to anticipate the recruiter’s questions. The more you master your speech, the more you can focus on your body language. While you won’t be able to perfect answers to every question under the sun, you can go over the ones that come up frequently, such as “Can you tell me about yourself?”, “What professional achievement are you most proud of?” and so on.

3. Practice the “power pose”

The “power pose” is an exercise that helps you get into the right emotional state, and, in particular, fight off pre-interview-stress. The idea put forward by the American psychologist Amy Cuddy is the following: body language affects our vision of ourselves and others. Thus, standing with a confident posture, even when you don’t feel it, boosts your self-confidence. Holding your pose for a few minutes before the interview will increase your chances of making a good impression. The power pose can also be effective during the interview: remember to stand up straight, face your interviewer, and plant your feet firmly on the ground. If you’re sitting, keep your feet flat and your hands visible.

4. Tailor your language to the recruiter

It’s important to note here that the goal is not to hide your personal behavior and mimic everything the recruiter does. The purpose of adaptation is to put your audience at ease. It’s a good way to make yourself better understood. Find out as much as you can beforehand, and then, during the interview, adapt your language and vocabulary to that used by the recruiter. Train yourself to be on the same wavelength as the recruiter (yes, you can teach yourself how!) thanks to our mirror neurons. This will allow you to express yourself more effectively and capture the attention of the recruiter right away.

Dos and don’ts of nonverbal communication

While we don’t have any miracle techniques, here are some recommendations to boost your nonverbal communication and body control.

The right body language to have

  • Maintain eye contact: this creates rapport and builds the foundations of a relationship with the recruiter, which will be crucial in their post-interview decision-making. Look at the recruiter frequently without staring, and in the case of a panel interview, look at each one throughout the interview.

  • Keep smiling: micro facial expressions are essential. During an interview, the recruiter tries to imagine what your attitude will be towards your future colleagues and clients. Whatever happens, it’s essential to exude positivity.

  • Take notes and listen actively: don’t come empty-handed to an interview; take a notebook with you. First of all, it prevents you from forgetting important elements of the conversation. Secondly, it shows the recruiter that you value what they’re saying.

  • Pay attention to the introductions: The American Psychological Association (APA) found that a firm handshake leads to a positive first impression. Maintain eye contact and smile, and avoid shaking too hard.

Gestures and behaviors to avoid

  • Bad habits and little tics: clicking a pen, chewing gum, scratching your hair or skin, and tapping your foot nervously are all attitudes that should be avoided because they reveal your stress

  • Looking at your cell phone (even on the sly).

  • Not paying any attention to your environment: Focusing solely on the interview when you arrive at a company’s premises is a mistake. For example, you should know that in some companies, the receptionists are informed and sometimes even integrated into the recruitment process. The test begins as soon as you enter the establishment. Do not settle your personal affairs on the phone in the corridors, and be sure to greet employees if you see them while waiting. A polite and composed demeanor is appreciated not only by the recruiter but also by all your future colleagues!

Translated by Kim Cunningham

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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