Interview Dos & Don'ts: The Importance of Nonverbal Communication

Interview Dos & Don’ts: The Importance of Nonverbal Communication

December 10, 2019

What you say during an interview only goes so far. Your nonverbal cues help tell a complete picture. This is especially true for candidates who will be client-facing, working on teams or managing others. Interviewers will want to see you’re a good communicator since this an important skill for those types of roles. Regardless of the role though, 93 percent of communication is nonverbal so everyone will benefit from understanding the importance of nonverbal communication and how it can impact their interview – for better or for worse.

Below is a list of dos and don’ts for nonverbal communication during an interview.



  • Make eye contact

To show your interviewer you’re paying attention, be sure to look them in the eyes. Avoid staring intently or glancing around the room. You want your eye contact to show them you’re focused and confident.

  • Smile and nod

Nonverbal cues are proof you’re engaged in the conversation. By smiling and nodding when your interviewer makes a point, they know you’re listening. Use these gestures to punctuate a statement. Don’t smile and nod continuously as that can seem like you’re rushing the meeting.

  • Use natural facial expressions

Be aware of what your positive and negative facial expressions look like: look in the mirror while you’re on the phone before you head into your interview. Emoting nonverbally is natural. If you avoid using facial expressions, it can signal a lack of interest and passion. Just keep them in check. You don’t want to contort your face when talking about your previous boss, for example.

  • Shake hands

Handshakes are like fingerprints – everyone’s is a little different. So, you’ll want to feel out how your counterpart shakes and match their vigor. But, generally, don’t go in with a limp wrist or too furiously. You want to shake firmly and from your elbow (not your wrist). Make eye contact during this interaction to make it more meaningful. And if your hands tend to be cold, rub them together to warm them up before entering the room. If they tend to sweat, blot them with a tissue before you go in.

  • Dress appropriately

Companies may seem like they’re becoming more casual in dress, but that doesn’t mean you should wear jeans to an interview. Do some research on the company culture to figure out if it’s business casual or business formal – or something in between. Because you’re being interviewed, you should consider dressing one step above what employees would typically wear.



  • Fidget

OK, this may be hard for some of you because you don’t even realize you are fidgeting, but it’s distracting to the interviewer. Ask your friends or family what some of your subconscious habits might be, so you can keep them at bay. Common nervous fidgets include tapping a foot, shaking a leg, clicking a pen and playing with hair.

  • Slouch

As a rule, you should sit with your back against the chair and feet on the floor during the interview. A slight lean in toward the interviewer, with either your torso or just your head, can make them feel like you’re engaged. But don’t overdo it. And don’t lean back! Additionally, be mindful of standing and walking straight when you’re entering and leaving the interview room, as well as taking an office tour (or the like).

  • Cross your arms

You may tend to cross your arms if the interview room is chilly, but this is a sure-fire way to turn the interviewer off. Crossed arms are a sign of defensiveness and resistance. Those are not qualities a hiring manager is looking for in an employee. When they’re open at your sides or naturally placed on the table in front you, it’ll appear you’re more approachable.

  • Overuse hand gestures

Just like facial expressions, hand gestures should seem natural and used in moderation. Be careful not to gesture wildly or erratically. If you tend to get carried away, try keeping a pen in one hand or rest both hands on the table in front of you. Don’t conceal your hands – behind your back, under the table or stick them in your pockets – as this indicates you have something to hide.

  • Clear your throat

It’s debatable if this is verbal or nonverbal, but either way, avoid compulsively clearing your throat. Some people do this when they’re nervous. Have a glass of water available during the interview if you tend to get a dry mouth. And be proactive by using a throat lozenge or having warm tea with honey before heading into the interview room.

By following these guidelines, you’ll send the right signals to your interviewer that you’re engaged, confident – and a perfect fit for their open role.


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