It takes a lot of time and effort to find candidates you actually want to interview. Throughout that process, you only have a few meetings to determine whether or not you’ve chosen the right people. While you want to focus your attention on the substance of a candidate’s answers, you also want to pay attention to nonverbal cues. What is the candidate “not” saying with their arms, legs, posture and eyes? Are they being deceptive, or are they just nervous? Here are some key things to watch for as you sit down for your next candidate interview.

It Starts With Your Handshake

Handshakes are our go-to gesture for saying, “it’s great to meet you.” A weak handshake can indicate that a person is shy, insecure, or attempting to keep their distance. An overly-strong handshake can demonstrate an attempt at showing dominance. Look for a handshake that is firm and conveys confidence, not aggressiveness or insecurity.


Most people instinctively move their hands when they speak. When excited, nervous or agitated, those gestures can become more frequent, larger, and can be a bit distracting.  If a candidate moves their hands wildly while talking, it can mean they have a tendency to be overly dramatic, or they are attempting to shift your focus away from what they are saying.

Faulty Fidgeting

After a long staff meeting when your attention starts to wane and you just want to get out of the room, you start to fidget. When a candidate fidgets, it says they are not interested in the conversation, are bored, and can’t wait to leave. It may also indicate they are nervous about the answer they are providing, and may be hiding something.

Crossed Arms

Having your arms folded across your chest has many meanings, but it is a defensive posture that puts the body into a closed-off position. This means that while the candidate is talking they are feeling insecure, uncertain, and may be deceptive in their answers.  It may also demonstrate a lack of interest in the conversation.

Playing With Items on The Table

Holding a pen can be a tool for candidates to calm their nerves, but be wary of a person who plays around with items on the table, taps their fingers on the table or engages in other distracting behaviors. As with extreme gesturing, this may be an unconscious attempt to distract you from the substance of their answers.

The Eyes and The Smile (Or Lack Thereof)

Smiling is a universal signal of friendliness. It can be difficult for candidates to smile when they are nervous, but an interested candidate will make attempts at smiling and holding eye contact. You’ll notice over time that a nervous candidate will relax and begin to smile naturally and make better eye contact. Someone who frowns the whole way through and never makes any attempt at eye contact may be deceptive, or simply too shy to function well in a group setting.

Candidates say a lot in an interview chair, but sometimes they say the most with their body language. It can be difficult to know when someone is just nervous or when they are showing you a “tell” that they may be hiding something. If you are looking to improve your hiring processes and find top talent, work with Buffalo’s premier recruiting team. The experts at Systems Personnel can match you with professionals who have the hard and soft skills you’re looking for. Contact us today to learn more about the ways in which we can help you achieve your recruiting goals

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