How reliable is body language for making hiring decisions?

Job interviews are not a recent invention, they have existed since the beginning of the 20th century. In fact, one of the most popular (and peculiar) job interviews in those days is said to have been conducted by Thomas A. Edison.

When Edison was looking for a new item for his team, he had hundreds of interested people, however, not all had the skills he was looking for. To select them, he would call them and ask them to answer a series of general knowledge questions and even make them eat soup – YES, SOUP – to see if the applicants added salt or pepper before trying it. What he wanted to observe is whether the applicants were accustomed to making a priori judgments in some situations, and generally those who added condiments before trying the soup were rejected.

Going back to now, job interviews have become the standard procedure for most – or all – companies. However, instead of making candidates eat soup, recruiters observe the applicant’s type of body language. This is based on the fact that body language can reveal information about the candidate’s ability for the position and provide details about her way of being.

The importance of examining body language (or non-verbal cues) is probably the reason why face-to-face interviews predominate to this day. Even within today’s virtual communication tools, those that allow audio and video to be transferred are usually more effective than those that offer text only.

Read non-verbal cues 

What can these nonverbal cues indicate to candidates?

  • Constant flickering: it is friendly and warm
  • A wrinkle-free smile on the outside of the eyes – may indicate a fake smile
  • A person whose head is lowered: May appear less self-confident than a person whose head and eyes are held straight
  • Stretched shoulders: can indicate pride and determination
  • Restless hands: may be a sign of anxiety or boredom
  • Crossed arms: may indicate anger or arrogance
  • Crossed legs: can be a restless person

Communication is believed to be made up of 7% words, 38% tone and intonation of the voice, and 55% body language.

This implies that people believe that an important part of communication is non-verbal. Non-verbal communication is also believed to be unconscious and a reflection of non-externalized feelings, which is why a great emphasis is placed on non-verbal communication, especially if verbal and non-verbal communication are inconsistent.

Imagine this: a candidate claims to be a self-confident person, yet her hands are shaking throughout the interview. This inconsistency between verbal and non-verbal language can make the candidate and her arguments unreliable – or credible.

When it fails in body language

It is important to be careful when interpreting these types of signals since this analysis can be somewhat subjective. You can consider the following:

  • A person with his arms crossed: Will he be arrogant? or maybe it’s cold or uncomfortable
  • A wrinkle-free smile on the outside of the eyes: Are you faking the smile? maybe he is very nervous
  • Slightly Dropped Shoulders: Lack of Determination? or result of the fatigue of that day

The validity and usefulness of nonverbal cues will also have to depend on the context. Many non-verbal cues are the result of emotions, which are fleeting in nature, which implies that they are not generalizable in the long term under different situations or contexts. So a person who displays anxiety body language during a job interview is not necessarily an anxious person.

In other words, nonverbal cues are helpful in predicting a person’s feelings and attitudes at a particular time, but not generally, this suggests that nonverbal language is not the best way to predict someone’s personality in the long run. term.

How to make a better evaluation?

Even if there was a better way to evaluate the candidate’s non-verbal language, this should not be the only element taken into account in hiring him. To truly understand – or read – a person it is important to gather more pieces of important information on him.

In addition to looking for the qualifications and skills in the CV it is important to know what are the strengths of your personality, the type of interests of the candidate in the labor aspect and the type of culture in which he is used to working. All these data can be obtained from various sources: CV’s, video interviews, and personality tests.

As you can see, body language is not a tool that is used in isolation and it will always be necessary to carry out a 360º evaluation with other aspects that can complement a general perception of a candidate.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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