Here are 10 clues that will tell you what the interviewer really thinks:
1. If the interviewer says he “could go on talking with you all day,” but his feet are pointed toward the door, he’s really telling you that he is finished with the interview.
If someone is sitting with ankles crossed and legs stretched forward, they are probably feeling positively toward you. But when you see feet pulled away from you or wrapped in a tight ankle lock or wrapped around the legs of a chair, you would be wise to suspect withdrawal and disengagement. And if they are pointed at the exit, it’s a sure signal they are ready to be elsewhere.
2. If the interviewer begins to mimic your gestures, she feels you are a kindred spirit and you’re likely to get her stamp of approval.
When talking with someone we like or are interested in, we subconsciously synchronize our body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and rate of speech to match that of the other person – mirroring that person’s nonverbal behaviour and signaling that we are connected and engaged.
3. If the interviewer shrugs one shoulder as he tells you about the company’s great work environment, it’s probably not that great.
A partial (abridged) shoulder shrug usually indicates that a person lacks conviction about what he is saying.
4. If the interviewer says she’s not sure you’re right for the job, but keeps glancing at your resume, she’s sending a strong signal that she is interested.
In general, people tend to look longer and with more frequency at objects they are drawn to. The interviewer may be trying to appear noncommittal, but her eyes will keep returning to the object that attracts her. If, in addition, you see her eyes open wider or her pupils dilate, you know for certain that she has a much greater interest in your resume (and you) than she is letting on.
5. If you ask when you’ll know if you got the job, and he replies, “Um, uh, er . . . soon,” you’ll never hear from him again.
For most people, the act of lying is stressful. One of the signs of stress is the use of verbal hesitations and false starts.
6. If the interviewer tilts her head as you’re speaking, she wants to hear more.
The head tilt is a universal gesture of “giving the other person an ear.” It is a signal that someone is interested, curious and involved in what you are saying.
7. If the interviewer’s handshake is offered palm down, he is showing that he feels superior.
People who offer a sideways hand to shake send a nonverbal message of equality. But when someone offers his hand with the palm faced downwards (or twists his hand downward during the handshake) it sends a message of superiority – a nonverbal sign that he literally feels he has the upper hand.
8. If the interviewer’s entire body – head, shoulders, hips and feet – is oriented toward you, she is totally engrossed and focused on you.
When people are engaged, they will face you directly, “pointing” at you with their whole body. However, the instant they feel uncomfortable, they will pull back or angle their upper body away – giving you “the cold shoulder.”
9. If the interviewer suddenly sits up straighter and takes a deep breath, he is excited about the possibility of hiring you.
One way that people show their emotions is by shifts in the chest. The heart, brain, and nervous system are so closely interlocked that you can often tell whether someone is happy or depressed by simply observing how he breathes. When people are excited and happy, they fill up with those good feelings. Look for a sudden upper body shift – usually upward and forward – and a big inhalation.
10. If the interviewer uses expansive, welcoming gestures that seem to flow naturally, she is already embracing you as a likely candidate.
When someone reaches toward you or uses a lot of open-hand gestures, it is usually a positive signal of engagement and receptivity. By contrast, people who are defensive or angry may protectively fold their arms across their chests, clench their fists or tightly grip their arm or wrist.
By the way: If the interviewer stops in the middle of your conversation to practice golf swings (yes, it’s happened), there is absolutely no chance that you will ever be offered a position with that company!
Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD, is an executive coach, consultant, and international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. She is also the author of STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence.