Mixed Messages: 3 Physical Cues That Could Send the Wrong Signal in an Interview

In a recent survey of over 5,000 talent professionals from over 35 countries, LinkedIn uncovered some fascinating findings related to trends that are transforming the workplace. While hard skills still matter, soft skills seem to be taking centre stage in hiring efforts. Over 90% of Canadian and U.S. companies identified soft skills as very important to the future of recruiting and HR. While they may agree on the importance of soft skills, those companies are not so clear on how to assess for them. Over half of the companies surveyed reported that they struggle to evaluate soft skills accurately.  Behavioural-based interviewing was the go-to method for companies looking to assess soft skills, but the second-most popular method was a real shocker. Seventy per cent of companies reported that they relied on reading a candidate’s body language to assess soft skills. 

While it may not be an accurate or appropriate assessment technique, candidates need to know that their body language in some cases could make or break their interview. Here are three non-verbal cues that could send the wrong message. 


The Half-hearted Handshake 

A firm, confident and friendly handshake may go even farther than we think. In a study that involved having participants shake hands with a series of people before a mock interview, researchers at the University of Iowa found that applicants with firm handshakes had stronger “hire recommendations” from the local HR representatives who participated in the study. Even if your interviewer doesn’t offer their hand first, don’t let your interview begin or end without a handshake. Take the time and make the effort to extend your hand for a solid shake with a good grip, direct eye contact and a smile. 


Poor Posture 

Your interviewers may also interpret the way you sit as a not-so-subtle message about your interest in the position. Slouching over in your chair could be seen as a lack of enthusiasm. Sitting too far on the edge of your seat could be viewed as a desire to be somewhere elseSitting in the chair with your legs stretched out in front of you and your torso slumped could send a message that you lack respect for the interviewer or the job. Instead, sit up nice and straight, leaning forward occasionally to emphasize points in your conversation if that feels natural to you. 


Awkward Eye Contact 

Failing to make direct eye contact with your interviewers could have direct implications on their initial impressions about your trustworthiness. In one study that was conducted to assess this theory, researchers found participants were more likely to believe statements by a speaker who looked at them directly, compared to a speaker who averted their gaze. 

If you’re unsure of how long to look your interviewer in the eye, research suggests that just over three seconds at a time seems to be the sweet spot. Eye contact under one second can appear shifty, while gazes that go on for longer than nine seconds can feel awkward. If multiple people are interviewing you, be sure to make eye contact with everyone on the panel regularly. Having a pad of paper and pen to take notes can serve as a helpful prop that will allow you to naturally break your gaze as you glance down to make notes. 


Combine the trifecta of a solid handshake, confident posture, and natural eye contact with these interview tips for stronger soft skill storytelling, and you’ll be well on your way to knocking your next interview out of the park