Nonverbal Communication in Interviews

Nonverbal communication is a natural way of communicating through body language -- from your face, to your feet. Most of us don’t think about it, especially in daily, informal conversations and interactions. In professional or important situations like a job interview, however, you want to be aware of what messages you may be sending nonverbally to ensure they are consistent with what you are saying. Ask friends for honest feedback on your nonverbal communication in a practice interview so you know that how you say something and how you listen is consistent with your words and not distracting.


Nonverbal communication includes facial expressions, the tone and volume of your voice, and body movements such as posture, hand gestures and how you handle personal space, including touching someone. These communication actions reinforce what you say verbally. For example, if you are excited about a specific job responsibility, moving slightly forward in your chair and smiling reinforce that message to the prospective employer. If you slouch and have a disinterested look on your face, your nonverbal communication is contradicting or substituting a message for your verbal one. Nonverbal communication can’t be faked, but it can be managed.

Importance and Impact

Research findings published in 2011 in “Psychology Today” indicate that while nonverbal communication is not more important than what you say aloud in an interview, it can cause misgivings if it doesn't match your verbal communication. For example, saying you don't mind traveling with a dour expression sends conflicting messages. Similarly, if you concentrate heavily on your nonverbal communication, believing it can boost a weakness in knowledge or experience, think again. Consistency between verbal and nonverbal cues is the most effective. Demonstrating a genuine interest, controlling your nervousness and displaying a positive outlook are important behaviors you can practice.

Your Hands

Practice your handshake. Make sure it is firm -- not limp, but not overly aggressive either. During the interview, don’t hold anything that prevents you from using your hands naturally during the interview, like a pencil or purse. Hand gestures are natural as long as they are not distracting or excessive. Keep your hands away from your face so the interviewer can make eye contact and see your expressions. Never use your hands to display nervousness, such as tapping on a desk, twirling your hair or adjusting your tie.

Your Eyes and Posture

Don’t fix your gaze on your interviewer, but maintain steady eye contact for at least five seconds, glance away briefly, then re-establish contact. If there are several interviewers, do this with each one, giving full attention to the person asking the question. Eighty percent of your interview time should be spent maintaining eye contact. Your posture should be relaxed, but at attention. Sit more at the edge of your seat than all the way back; this will help keep your back straight. If you have a nervous habit such as tapping your feet, practice controlling it before the interview.