Body language—during an interview—is hard to control on both ends. You want to be able to tell whether or not they view you as a friend or fo. You are probably not a psychopath. This means that you might get anxious during interviews, feel a sense of pressured speech, or aren’t aware of what your body is telegraphing. We’re going to assume your interview is non-structured. You have to wing it and play jazz. A great way to efficiently improvise is by practicing improvisation.
You can get an idea of what the interviewer’s first impression is by how they appear when they go to greet you. A first impression is carried by nonverbals, what you’re wearing, how you smell, what your teeth look like, how inviting your eyes and smile are, etc.
You walk up to them, shake their hand, say hello, and walk through their door. Your interviewer will be one of a number of types of people: introverted vs. extroverted, masculine vs. feminine, etc. Knowing more about their character will explain more about their body language.
You should be able to immediately size up the person interviewing you by how they carry their limbs. Everyone’s movements are mini versions of old cartoon animations, bobbing up and down. The more you break down the cadence of the person you’re examining, the more information you’ll have to go off of.
Unless you’re being interviewed by someone with a flat affect, they’re going to be telegraphing how they feel about what you’re doing and saying.
The key thing to remember is that—as body parts close off and go inward—that’s normally bad. If their mouth becomes tight and their lips pursed, almost grimacing (no matter how minute or momentary), then they don’t like something. If they’re reading your resume while they’re doing it, that may lend itself to the hypothesis that they don’t like something that is in your resume.
Sincere nonverbals will sync. Any base expression like surprise or anger will have synced features. If different parts of their faces are out of sync, then they might be holding back.
If something attacks you, you’re probably going to use your arms to block it. You’re a meat sack with vital organs. When you feel threatened (real or perceived), your arms normally become crossed. Be as open as possible. Keep your hands out of your pockets and armpits.
During an interview, legs are normally under a table. They provide valuable information as to whether the interviewer or interviewee wants to be there. Some people cross their legs all the time when they sit down. Others only cross their legs when they are on the defensive.
Women appear to cross their legs more than men. Women traditionally wear different attire than men. This, therefore, would potentially fall under a cultural norm. Try not to overanalyze phenomena that can be explained away by culture.
Where are their feet pointing? Normally, they are pointing to where their body thinks they themselves should be going. Feet will often be pointed towards the pack leader of groups and the people we like. They will be pointed towards a door if we want to subconsciously leave.
Where are they resting? Which direction? While it’s doubtful that the interviewer will go into an akimbo stance, that authoritative posture depends on hands.
Hands will often be a huge indication as to whether or not someone is worried about something.
Are their hands hovering over their pockets? They might be waiting for a message from someone or concerned about the time.
An infant lulling itself to sleep or a cat kneading a carpet are examples of this behavior. These are gesticulations displaying that that person is calming themselves for an unspecified reason. Biting nails, playing with jewelry, repetitive motions—all soothing and/or necessary to the person doing them: The bobbing of a knee, up and down; frantically clicking a pen without realizing it until some good samaritan shushes them; playing with their hair.
If an interviewer is doing this, it’s more than likely not you. Their child may be at home with a fever and they are worried.
How your posture looks—e.g., slumped over, upright, stick up your butt, etc.—will give different vibes and may be the downfall of your interview from the getgo.
This is when you, and those whom you are conversing with, are in sync with one another. Mirroring is a sign that they are comfortable with you and have a favorable view of you.
Mirroring often happens with the arms and hands. This is because legs are sometimes out of sight. But, mirroring also happens with legs. Yawning is another one. Since it is contagious, it will spark a yawn in whoever is observing you. Yawning during an interview might not be the greatest idea.
Where Are They Leaning?
Oftentimes, when someone doesn’t like you—if they aren’t about to sucker-punch you—they’ll be leaning away from you. When an interviewer is leaning towards you, features all synced, with open body posture, you’re doing well. Leaning away can be good if it’s momentary, like throwing one’s head back to guffaw.
These are momentary gesticulations that are involuntary. A good example of a microexpression is a brief eye roll. Not enough to be noticed by everyone in the room, but they might do it so often that it happened without them consciously thinking about it.
Any of the gestures mentioned above can be micro-gestures, given a short enough time frame.
Identifying what microexpressions are being telegraphed is difficult, and you may misinterpret what they’re doing. If you mistake lip pursing for disappointment, it may give you anxiety and ruin the interview. In reality, it may just be them concentrating.
The worst thing you can do with this advice is to overanalyze why a gesture is happening. You simply need to recognize that it is happening. The more body language data you gather from the person sitting across from you, the easier it will be to figure out what’s going on. Go with your gut for the most part.