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The Insider's Guide To Job Search

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Body Language In An Interview: Reading The Signs

by Kevin T. Buckley, CPC

Beyond the words you say in an interview are the non-verbal signals you are sending to the interviewer. These come collectively under the heading of Body Language.

You can communicate many different attitudes and feelings through non-verbal signals. You can also pick up signs of agreement or disagreement from the interviewer.

It can be misleading to interpret a single sign as having a definite interpretation. Look for two or more signs and take the context into consideration.

Happiness or satisfaction:
Smiling, enlarged pupils, relaxed posture, serene facial expression, free, unrestrained movement

Unhappiness or dissatisfaction:
Frowning, constricted pupils, tense posture, pursed lips, furrowed brow, flared nostrils, rigid body, lack of movement or nervous movement

Nodding, winking, smiling, relaxation following concentration, continuation of serene eye contact

Shaking the head from side-to-side, frowning, crossing the arms, pursing the lips, drumming the fingers, tapping a pen or pencil

Interest or receptiveness:
Serene eye contact, stillness of body, even breathing, arms folded loosely over lower body

Disinterest or distraction:
Looking away, hunched shoulders, arms folded on chest, face placid, vacant eyes, sighing, finger drumming or desk tapping

Anger or irritation:
Accentuated breathing, intense aggressive eye contact, arms folded on chest, face taut, clenched fists, hands gripping desktop

One raised eyebrow, crooked smile, head shaking side to side, tilted head

Two raised eyebrows, enlarged pupils, sudden attention directed to speaker

Decision-making in progress:
Eyes directed to the ceiling, blinking rapidly, turning away and looking steadily at nothing, standing and walking back and forth

Decision has been made:
Deep breath followed by a sigh and relaxation, end of facial tension, followed by smiling or earnest eye contact

Superior status:
Takes central spot in meetings, speaks without seeking permission, initiates and terminates most transactions, exhibits dominant behaviour - standing taller in confrontations, pats people on the back.

Subordinate status:
Takes peripheral spot in meetings, seeks permission before speaking, waits for dominant individual to initiate or terminate most transactions, exhibits submissive behaviour - curling shoulders forward in confrontations, seeks pats on the back


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