How To Use Nonverbal Communication at an Interview

Woman shaking hands with a man at a job interview.
Photo: Ariel Skelley / Blend Images / Getty Images

While at a job interview, you might think that if you have the best answers to the interview questions, you'll get the job, but that isn't necessarily the case. A big part of the success of your answers is actually nonverbal communication.

This includes your body language and what is known as “paralanguage”—the elements of your speech besides the words, such as your intonation, speaking speed, pauses and sighs, and facial expressions. Nonverbal communication also includes your attire and grooming.

Nonverbal communication is as important as verbal communication. The interviewer will be observing your nonverbal communication throughout the entire interview. If your nonverbal communication skills aren't up to par, it won't matter how well you answer the questions.

The Importance of Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication matters as soon as you walk in the office door. If you come to an interview reeking of cigarette smoke or chewing gum, you will already have one strike against you. Too much perfume or not enough deodorant won't help either.

Not being dressed appropriately or having scuffed shoes will give you a second strike. Talking on your cell phone or listening to music while waiting to be called for the interview may be your final strike.

When you're participating in a video interview, it's important to have a professional background and few distractions. Your professional presence will be evaluated as it would be at an in-person interview.

What's important when interviewing is to appear professional, attentive, and confident throughout the interview process.

How to Prepare

Remember that the image the interviewer has of you when they first meet you is the one that is going to last. If you're slouchy, sloppy, or messy, it won't matter how well you answer the interview questions. You are not going to get the job.

When practicing for an interview, work on your nonverbal communication and your other interviewing skills. It could be what clinches the job offer for you. You can practice with a friend or interview coach who conducts a mock interview and gives you feedback. You can also film yourself and review your nonverbal communication.

Before you leave for the interview, make sure you are dressed professionally, are neatly groomed, your shoes are polished, and you haven't overdone the perfume or aftershave (none is better than too much).


To increase your chances of making a good impression during a video call, there are certain mistakes you should avoid before and during the interview.

What to Bring to an Interview

There are things that you should bring with you to the interview and things that you need to leave at home. Following the advice in these lists will help improve your nonverbal communication:

  • Portfolio or pad holder with a copy of your resume and a list of references
  • Work samples (if relevant)
  • Notepad and pen
  • Breath mint (before you enter the building)

What Not to Bring to an Interview

  • Cell phone
  • Gum
  • Cigarettes
  • Candy
  • Soda or coffee
  • Scuffed shoes and messy or not-so-clean clothes

While You Wait

The way you sit in the lobby, the way you greet the receptionist and the interviewer, and the way you wait, will all have an impact on whether you are going to be considered for the job. Be friendly and pleasant, but not overbearing. If you need to wait, sit quietly (no phone calls) and patiently.

Nonverbal Communication During the Interview

  • Make eye contact with the interviewer for a few seconds at a time.
  • Smile and nod (at appropriate times) when the interviewer is talking, but don't overdo it. Don't laugh unless the interviewer does first.
  • Be polite and keep an even tone to your speech. Don't be too loud or too quiet.
  • Don't slouch.
  • Do relax and lean forward a little toward the interviewer so you appear interested and engaged.
  • Don't lean back. You will look too casual and relaxed.
  • Keep your feet on the floor and your back against the lower back of the chair.
  • Pay close attention to the interviewer. Take notes if you are worried you will not remember something.
  • Listen.
  • Don't interrupt.
  • Stay calm. Even if you had a bad experience at a previous position or were fired, keep your emotions to yourself and do not show anger or frown.
  • Not sure what to do with your hands? Hold a pen and your notepad or rest an arm on the chair or on your lap, so you look comfortable. Don't let your arms fly around the room when you're making a point.

Nonverbal Communication at the End of the Interview

Before leaving the interview, be sure to give the interviewer another firm handshake and smile. On your way out, say goodbye to the receptionist or anyone else you spoke to during the interview.

Your verbal communication is important too. Don't use slang. Speak clearly and definitely. Remember your manners and thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you. 

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles