How many interviews have you conducted in your career? Hundreds? Thousands? By now, you’ve probably become a bit of an expert on understanding an applicant’s body language during the interview. You’ve learned over time that you get extra little bits of information if you look beyond what applicants are saying.
Some of the more common signs include:
· Leaning in means the applicant is interested and engaged in the conversation.
· Making eye contact (but not too intense) means applicant is paying attention.
· Nodding shows that applicants are following what you’re saying and they understand or agree.
· Fidgeting probably means the applicant is nervous (which isn’t exactly negative, but you may want to try to help the applicant get a little more comfortable to really open up).
· Mirroring you. Ever noticed an applicant mirroring your actions? If they’re doing it well, then no you didn’t. Subtle mirroring of actions is often a subconscious way applicants show they admire you during the interview.
· Crossing arms means they’re closed off—but wait, that’s actually not true. It’s been completely misunderstood for years. Instead of meaning an applicant (or coworker for that matter) is closed off to new ideas, it actually often means people are trying to solve hard problems and folding arms helps both sides of their brain to focus (much like keeping feet firmly planted on the ground) when perhaps dealing with a difficult thing like answering interview questions. Good thing because I’ve been an arm-crosser for years!
Knowing what these little nuances mean gives us an advantage, or a little peek, into who’s really sitting in the interview with you. But have you thought about what your body language is saying about you when you conduct interviews? There are some ways we can conduct interviews in a way where body language supports our motivation in the conference room. And if you’re truly interested in engaging applicants to find the best future employees, try not to do these three things:
1. Tapping your pen or looking at your watch or cell phone tells applicants you’re bored and that you don’t have time for this interview. Every applicant has spent time to come in to this interview. They probably sacrificed time at their current job and will end up staying late that night or working through the weekend. They may even be paying a babysitter or daycare for extra time. Make sure you acknowledge their time is as valuable as yours. If you act like you’re much more important, what is that saying about your company? Remember, you are a representative of your company and every single interaction on its behalf makes a statement.
2. Don’t seem rigid. Relax, smile and be friendly. Sure, you’re interviewing candidates for a very important position, but you can work hard while having fun. Isn’t that the best way? Show that you enjoy what you’re doing by enjoying the conversation and learning more about the applicants sitting before you. And nod that you understand what the applicant is saying while talking so that she will feel encouraged that she’s on the right track. Similarly, you need to keep the conversation going. It shouldn’t feel like a list of questions you’re asking and the applicant is answering. That just makes it feel like an interrogation. But if done well, you can string along all the things you want to know so that it feels like a conversation that just flows.
3. Widening eyes or raising eyebrows. Ever been shocked by what an applicant has said? Haven’t we all? It’s hard to remain calm when an applicant just told you he heard about your job from a friend at church or that the kids hope “ mommy” will get this new job. We know we shouldn’t have certain information, but try to remain calm and work on making applicants feel comfortable so you get to know the real person. Yes, we know the laws about we’re allowed to ask about an applicant, but oftentimes applicants (especially first-timers) don’t know what they’re not supposed to say in an interview. Just continue keeping the applicant on track and you’ll find out whether that mother you’re interviewing has the right skills and is a good culture fit for the company, while you tuck that information away and not use it in the decision-making process. Similarly, if you disagree with something an applicant has said, you can politely disagree but remember that your goal is to find a good applicant. Keep the conversation positive.
It really comes down to getting to the real person you’re interviewing. Your body language can encourage applicants to come out of their shells. Making people feel comfortable and finding out their true personality is one of the best skills you can have as a recruiter.