Virtual Interviews: Body Language Signs Recruiters Should Not Miss

The study of body language is not an exact science. Nevertheless, recruiters that familiarize themselves with the art of nonverbal communication will have a decisive advantage in identifying the best possible candidates.

It goes further than just detecting the honesty of an applicant. Accurately reading an interviewee’s body language can help you detect character traits that may significantly impact their future job performance.

However, with the momentous increase in remote and virtual interviews, there are fewer body language cues that can be reliably examined by interviewers. In addition, due to new technologies emerging for candidates in areas such as CV writing, it’s becoming increasingly hard to find glaring red flags.

This means that recruiters will need to update themselves on how to evaluate interviewees just as effectively on video. Considering that an estimated 55% of our communication is nonverbal, body language is an excellent area to focus on.

To help you accomplish this, we’ve compiled a list of the most important body language areas to examine. We’ve also divided these into positive signals and warning signs so that you can comfortably refer to this guide when conducting your next video interview.

Confident Body Posture

Posture is one of the areas where it’s easiest to observe clear body language signals even in a virtual interview.

The way the candidate sits and positions their body can provide a significant degree of information about their personality and can be noticed relatively easily on camera.

Below are some of the most important signs to look out for when judging an interviewees posture:

Positive Signs

  • Straight posture shows confidence and appropriate interview etiquette. This can be a sign of professionalism and fitting decorum in an applicant.
  • Neutral body positioning also represents self-belief and a relaxed demeanor, which can point to the ability to perform under pressure.

Warning Signs

  • Slouching is almost always a negative sign. It reveals a disinterested mindset or a bored and arrogant demeanor. In some cases, it can also be a sign of a lack of confidence.
  • Leaning forward too much may appear like confidence, but it can also be a sign that the candidate is eager to leave. This may signify an impatient or restless personality.
  • Dressing inappropriately is typically a negative sign. It’s a misconception that dressing professionally is not necessary during a video interview, and how a candidate presents themselves is an extension of their mindset and outlook.
Warm and Genuine Gestures

Gestures can also be read quite effectively through video, even with a blurry camera or an imperfect internet connection.

Here are some of the most important behaviors to look out for when analyzing gestures of your virtual interviewees:

Positive Signs

  • Open hands show tolerance, honesty, and possibly even optimism. They may represent an open and accepting personality which will contribute to a constructive team spirit.
  • Controlled hand movements such as pressing fingers together or flipping hands, can reflect thoughtfulness, serenity, and a strong intellect.

Warning Signs

  • Self-soothing touches such as caressing an arm or shoulder can be a sign of a lack of self-confidence. Nervousness is to be expected, but excessive self-touching may point to insecurities that could eventually detract from their performance.
  • Arm crossing is one of the most well-known red flags in interviews, but this doesn’t make it any less true. It implies that the interviewee is most probably confrontational, defensive, or arrogant.
  • Pointing or other intense hand gestures can represent an aggressive or angry nature. Working with someone that is easily irritable is rarely a pleasant experience, so watch out for these kinds of signals.
  • Hiding hands is a well-known body language telltale sign that can signify dishonesty or deception. However, on video you may not be able to tell if their hands are simply out of view rather than being hidden, so don’t take this into account if you don’t have any more clues that support this suspicion.
Authentic Conversation and Facial Expressions

Virtual interviews can make it difficult to properly examine the facial expressions of candidates. Many subtleties that would normally be detectable in person will not be visible through video, even with a good connection and high camera resolution.

Therefore, we’ve only added the facial expressions which will be hard to miss even in a virtual interview:

Positive Signs

  • Genuine laughter reveals self-confidence and a warm personality which may mesh effectively with your company culture and the rest of the team.
  • An authentic smile is an important sign in any interview. It shows enthusiasm, passion, and interest in the company and job position. This is also known as a “Duchenne smile

Warning Signs

  • Fake laughter gives the opposite impression of genuine laughter. It may imply nervousness or a deceptive personality.
  • Excessively long pauses may show that the interviewee is unprepared or struggles to perform under pressure.
Calm Eye Contact

The extent to which you can analyze a candidate’s eye contact on video is highly dependent on the internet speed, camera quality, and lighting conditions. Out of all the nonverbal communication cues to look out for, eye contact is the one that is most hampered by virtual interviewing.

However, we’ve included some of the points which can sometimes be visible even on webcam:

Positive Signs

  • Consistent eye contact is typically almost essential for a candidate to give a good impression. However, it can be difficult to maintain this type of eye contact in a virtual interview. For some candidates, it’s simply more natural to look at the other person’s video rather than into the camera. Therefore, it’s better to focus on whether they are looking at roughly the same point throughout the interview and not getting distracted with other parts of their screen.

Warning Signs

  • Glancing off-camera can be a sign that the candidate is not paying attention or is unprepared and checking their notes for reference. This can also reveal deception if they look away when asked something.
  • Blinking too much may be hard to pick up on camera, but it may mean that the candidate gets overly nervous under pressure.
Never Stop Learning

Being a recruiter is not easy. Although remote work and digital processes have made many things easier, they have also brought a myriad of unforeseen challenges for HR managers. Interviewing candidates on video is one of those since it provides fewer opportunities to evaluate a candidate on their nonverbal communication.

The best way to deal with these shifts is to stay up to date with new HR insights, tools, and trends. Familiarize yourself with how virtual calls influence candidates’ behavior and body language and your hiring decisions will be taken to the next level.

Emily Brown