Unspoken Signals: The Influence of Bodily Cues During the Interview Process

The interview process can be a nerve-racking experience for many. While a great CV is important, often, the face-to-face interview stage is even more of a deciding factor for a potential employer. Many candidates enter an interview with answers prepared and the details of their CV memorised, but they neglect to consider the weight that body language (or non-verbal cues) can have in creating a lasting impression.


It’s human nature to make quick assessments of others, this skill was essential for our survival! However, impressions are subjective and this first assessment may be accurate or they may be completely inaccurate. Remaining attentive to what non-verbal cues you are sending can be invaluable.

Visual Cues

Eye Contact:

Most candidates are aware that eye-contact is a positive habit to acquire for interviews, but neglect to actually put this knowledge into practice. However, eye contact is a key influencer in establishing rapport, showing interest, and conveying truthfulness (inability to keep eye contact is associated with dishonest behaviour). Additionally, a person who maintains eye contact creates an impression of conscientiousness. It’s important to remember that there is such thing as too much eye contact, no one likes to feel they are being stared at! The amount of eye contact between two people should be natural, not uncomfortable.


A person who smiles (at appropriate times!) conveys as sociable and extraverted first impression. Additionally, it can give a message of confidence.


Good posture is something many candidates forget to consider when entering an interview. While an interviewer may not immediately notice a candidate’s good posture, bad posture can be very obvious. Sitting hunched over sends a visual cue of submissiveness and also indicates a lack of self-awareness. Keep your shoulders back and head level as it conveys confidence.


A weak handshake is one of the easiest ways to start off an interview on the backfoot. Pair a strong handshake with a friendly smile to immediately get across enthusiasm and an assertive attitude.

Delivery of Conversation

Vocal cues can lead to impressions of extraversion and conscientiousness. In other words, simply learning off answers or listing off achievements is not enough, style of delivery of that information also sends a message. A conversation style that is calm, composed and natural gives a great impression. Fluency of speech and composure were found to be key deciding factors for perceived hirability in Hollandsworth et al.’s 1979 study. Additionally, having a dominant sounding voice gives the impression of assertiveness and an ability to lead.


Self-efficacy, in this context, refers to the degree of confidence the applicant has that she or he can, and will, perform well during the interview. One’s self-belief is a critical ingredient in a successful interview! If the candidate is entering the interview with an expectation of success rather than failure, their demeanour will reflect this, positivity will shine through, and facilitate a better interview.

But, what can you do if you suffer from low self-confidence?  Try some of the following;
  • Remind yourself before entering an interview that you were selected because the employer is already interested in you, so don’t sell yourself short!
  • Ask a friend or family member to practice interviews with you and provide some constructive feedback.
  • Fake it ‘til you make it! Try implementing the tips outlined above. Behavioural psychologists have shown that attitudes/beliefs only change after an individual takes steps to change their situation or environment. So even if you feel unsure, put on a smile and hold your head high - inner confidence will follow.


Claire McGinty