The Silent Clues – How to Make Your Nonverbal Signals Send the Right Message

In a recent article featured on ABC, a survey revealed that 55% of people are unhappy in their current jobs. This paired with our recent poll that showed 82% of readers would job hop in 2010 indicates that people are ready for a change in their work life. Based on these findings, competition may stay fierce as people look for new jobs. So, here are some tips to help you brush up on your nonverbal skills to ensure you outshine the competition and send all the right messages once you’ve landed an interview.

  • Always Smile. When you first meet an interviewer, give them a big smile. A sincere smile communicates warmth and friendliness, and helps put everyone at ease. Also, it’s a great way to break the ice and help relieve any tension about the interview.
  • Give a Firm Handshake. Extend your hand first to greet your interviewer. Doing so shows that you are a go-getter and you take the initiative – both of which are good qualities employers like to see. Be firm with your handshake, but not too firm. You don’t want to inflict any pain on your interviewer.

  • Balance Eye Contact. Too little eye contact during an interview can give the impression that you lack confidence or have something you are trying to hide. Give too much eye contact, and you might be displaying aggression. During your interview, look the interviewer in the eye, but be sure to occasionally break eye contact at appropriate times.

  • Lean Forward. When you sit down in the interview chair, don’t lean back too far. Instead, sit closer to the front of the chair and lean slightly forward to communicate your interest in the job. Leaning back may cause you to look too casual, making it hard for an interviewer to see your drive or passion.
  • Be Aware of Your Arms. Crossed arms send the message that you are standoffish, insecure, defensive, and want others to stay away. During your interview, keep your arms relaxed on the table or in your lap to show that you are approachable and open.
  • Control Your Nerves. Your nervousness can come across in an interview if you use excessive hand gestures or facial expressions, or if you are jittery. Its fine to use some gestures and facial expressions – especially if that is part of your personality – but just don’t overdo it. Tapping your fingers on the table, clicking a pen, or wiggling your feet and legs can be seen as a distraction, so try not to do them. Those cues could give the interviewer the impression that you don’t want to be there.

Now that you have these tips, try a practice interview to help you prepare for the real deal. Your nonverbals say a lot about who you are. They are part of the first impression that you make, and remember, a first impression is made quickly and you don’t get a second chance at it. Make the most of it and make it count!


  1. DC Jobs

    I like the idea of always smiling. Hiring managers definitely place a lot of weight on how well they think a prospective employee will fit in with their current team. Smiling sends the message that you are not anti-social, which is a good message to start off with.

  2. Tammy

    The sitting up instead of leaning back is huge. Use this even if you have a personal reference at the job. In my previous job, we have passed over several qualified candidates because they looked like they were too relaxed –had the job in the bag–kind of impression.

  3. r

    some more don’ts are: don’t smoke or eat spicy foods before the interview. Don’t chew gum during the interview. Turn off your cell phone before the interview. Some companies are already judging you as you park your car and approach the building. Give direct answers to direct questions..don’t ramble. And most of all…give a positive spin on EVERYTHING! your past, furture, why you applied and Where you want to be in 5 yrs.

  4. Pingback: How do I Network When I Don’t Know Anyone? A Guide to Working the Room | Movin' On Up

  5. BlackNurvana

    Did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps folks on both sides seem to do all the right things to get the job or hire someone, and half of them end up leaving….

    This is the equivalent to setting up a dating service, and half of the people that get married or become a couple, split up. Kind of tells you something about the content of what folks are looking for. And you have to go back out there and do it all again.

    1. Jared Cole

      Thanks for commenting, BlackNurvana. I don’t know if there is a national average statistic of those who leave their job, but different industries and employers have different rates of turnovers. There are also different reasons for quitting, getting laid off, and getting fired among employers. I think It’s too complex to generalize that companies or job seekers are unable to decide what they are looking for in each other. What do you think?

      1. BlackNurvana

        There are national labor statistics that states where at one time the average number of times one would change change jobs was between 3-5 time during their work life is now at least 10 times or more. Of course, the paradigm has shifted from companies looking 5-10 15 years down the line to what they can do in a couple of years, a trend that can be seen across the board, in any business that has a board of directors or shareholders they are accountable to.

        So it appears it is easier to deal with younger folks who would bail before they get laid off for they are looking for the perfect job … not enough to go around. I could go on, however it just gets more depressing.

        What appears to be sad is that the young folks for the most part don’t seem to see this … yet … $$$ and huge college debt obscures their vision.

        1. Jared Cole

          Oh, I see what you’re saying now. It is true that the average worker will have 10 jobs in their working career, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m very interested in seeing how work culture and the job market will be in 10-20 years when Millennials start becoming upper management. More than anything I think it’s a mixture of employers wanting more specifically trained candidates to fill open positions and a generation of workers coming in looking for opportunity instead of following the classic hierarchy of management.

          Thanks for clearing things up and responding, BlackNurvana

  6. Pingback: 5 Quick Steps for a Great First Impression | Express Employment Professionals York, PA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *