Interview Body Language

Body language is communication made up of the non-verbal expressions and characteristics a person exhibits. Body language is often seen as more truthful than verbal communication so it is important that your body language is in harmony with what you are saying. Some examples of body language include hand gestures, facial expressions, posture, eye contact, and stance. In a study by Albert Mehrabian, it was found that verbal communication consists of 7% spoken words, 38% tone, and 55% body language. You can see that body language is a very important part of the interview process because it can communicate much more than words.

Mehrabian, A., and Ferris, S. (1967). Inference of Attitudes from Nonverbal Communication in Two Channels. Journal of Consulting Psychology. 31(3). 248-258.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is a very important part of your body language. Eye contact can communicate a host of emotions and moods. It is important to communicate attention, interest, and honesty through eye contact in the interview. This type of eye contact requires balance. Too much or too little will give the wrong impression. Eye contact is very important while answering questions. Focus on the interviewer while answering questions. Look at their face and shoulders while concentrating on the eyes and mouth. This helps display the truthfulness of your answers.

We all have a basic understanding of eye contact in public situations such as when seeing people on the street, in an elevator, or in a bar but the rules for eye contact differ in more personal settings. An interview is face to face and so different rules apply. In an elevator you do not have eye contact and communication is stifled but in an interview you invite communication. That is why you look at the interviewer as you are speaking. You can break eye contact every 5- 10 seconds or so but this is not an exact science. The thing to remember is that when you break eye contact, do not look down. Rather, look horizontally to the side. When listening, focus on the mouth of the interviewer. If you have more than one interviewer, look at the one who is addressing you. If you have been asked a question, begin looking at the person who asked you the question but pay equal attention to the other interviewers as well. End your answer while looking at the interviewer who asked you the question.


The goal with posture in an interview is to convey that you are interested but relaxed and not stressed. It is best to both stand and sit straight. This will help show your confidence and interest. Keep both feet on the floor. Do not cross your legs. Crossing your legs puts the rest of your body in a slouching position which is not contusive to speaking. Also, slouching tends to imply a lack of self confidence.

Your hands should never be crossed. Crossing your arms is a barrier to communication. The best thing to do with your hands is to let them rest on armrests, in your lap, or on the table. If you fidget (see below) it would be best not to place your hands on the table as they could become a distraction. Gesturing when you speak is a good way of adding meaning to what you say. Do not go overboard. Only use your hands if it comes naturally and even if you do, keep hand gestures slight. It is best to build up to hand movements as the interviewer becomes more comfortable with you. It is natural for hand movements to increase as communication progresses so this will be unconsciously expected.


It is important to not fidget or squirm. Both of these actions give the impression that you do not really want to be in the interview or that you are extremely nervous. Interviewers want to know that you can be calm under pressure and in social situations.

If you tend to fidget a lot during interviews, try bringing a professional portfolio along. Use the portfolio to take notes. Taking notes will give your hands something to do and it will also help you when following up on the interview.

Don't chew gum during the interview.

Reading Body Language

Not only do you need to be concerned about the message you are sending with your body language but also understand the message the interviewers are sending. Reading the body language of the interviewers will clue you in when you are talking too long, going down the wrong path, being too assertive, or interrupting. Watch for lack of eye contact, a change in posture, folding of arms, or negative facial expressions. If you notice such behavior, quickly finish your thought and give the floor back while you re-evaluate what you were communicating both verbally and non-verbally.

Additional Tips

Remember that you are being sized up the minute you walk through the door. Practice proper body language when meeting the receptionist, sitting in the waiting room, and when greeting others in the organization. You want everyone in the organization to have a positive opinion of you. Some encounters will only be for a few seconds or you may be noticed by others whom you never talk to but they will notice your body language. Make sure that you are sending the right message the entire time.