You proof-read your resume ten times, polished your shoes and made sure you researched your interviewers on LinkedIn. But then you showed up at the interview and bit your fingernails, played with your tie, or twisted your hair. You didn’t receive an offer.

While non-verbal behaviour probably won’t be the factor that sets an interviewee apart in a positive way, these behaviours can certainly have the opposite effect.

As part of your interview prep, you should become aware of the non-verbal tendencies you have and, where they are behaviours that will distract others and detract from your performance, come up with ways to control these behaviours. This article from Forbes outlines non-verbal behaviours that can have a negative impact on how an interviewer assesses you, including:

  • Poor eye contact or overly intense eye contact: while poor eye contact may make it seem like you are not interested in the position or that you lack confidence, intense eye contact can make the interviewer uncomfortable;
  • Repetitive gestures: tapping your foot or pen or repeatedly playing with your hair can distract or annoy the interviewer; and
  • Poor posture; again, slouching or leaning away may give the impression that you are not interested in the interview or the position.


The problem with these habits is that most of them are unconscious. If you have had a number of applications where you have made it to the interview stage but no further, it is worthwhile to arrange to do a mock interview with a friend or career coach. Mock interviews can be a great way to identify what non-verbal behaviours you may need to keep in check for your next interview.

Also, don’t forget that you can use the non-verbal cues of the interviewer to your advantage. As this article points out, paying attention to the behavior of the interviewer may give you insight into how the interview is going. Does your interviewer keep checking his watch? If so, consider if you have been giving long answers to questions and perhaps try to make your responses more concise. Is your interviewer shifting away from you or leaning back? Consider whether you are invading his personal space (or maybe you’re wearing too much perfume).

While trying to read into every movement of your interviewer is definitely not advised and will certainly drive you crazy, being attuned to the non-verbal behavior of others may allow you to make adjustments to your own behavior in a positive way.

Jennifer is a Recruitment and Communications Consultant with The Heller Group. She is actively involved in the recruitment and placement of lawyers into law firms and corporations and is also responsible for the corporate communications related to The Heller Group. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys travelling, curling and spending time with friends and family.

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