Social Recruiting

Is Candidate Body Language As Telling As Many Employers Believe?​​

Is Candidate Body Language As Telling As Many Employers Believe?​​
HireHive Team

HireHive Team


Body language, or kinesics by its official name, has been a recruitment 101 since as far back as the 60s. That’s hardly surprising considering that, according to the experts, this form of non-verbal communication accounts for around 55% of the cues we receive from a conversation.

The fact that around 51% of employers say they know if a candidate is a good fit within the first five minutes of an interview suggests that, even now, body language plays a major role in our recruitment decisions. There are certainly benefits to looking out for cues like a candidate’s handshake, or their ability to maintain eye contact. Studies have also revealed that we feel instantly warmer towards people who mimic our body language.

But, in an age where ‘good’ recruitment should consider the full candidate picture, is body language as useful an indicator as it once was? Employers might want to hold off basing their full recruitment decisions on body language alone for the following reasons.

The Risk of False Bravado

Employers aren’t the only ones who are aware of the importance of body language. Candidates may also do their research, and attempt to use body language to their advantage. After all, the internet is now rife with articles outlining kinesics that can help candidates to ‘fake it until they make it’.

The clue for why this is a problem comes from the title – candidates are often attempting to give off a fake bravado from the body language they use. From practicing their handshake to keeping conscious eye contact, body language frees candidates to put on a show. And, that ultimately doesn’t tell you anything about who they are or their suitability for your role. 

Of course, you could argue to some extent that the same is true for interview questions, which most candidates will also rehearse. However, you can find out far more about someone from reviewing the consistency of their answers over a few different interview sessions than you ever could from the firmness of a fake handshake. 

The Impact of Nerves

93% of people feel nervous before an interview, and those nerves will most often display themselves in potentially problematic body language, such as unsteady eye contact, fidgeting, and wringing of their hands. 

Opposite to the ‘false bravado’ listed above, an employer witnessing these body language red flags might make false assumptions about a great candidate. They may even end up discarding someone regardless of their answers or broader employment portfolio.

While it is true that excessive nerves during an interview could be a warning sign, slightly nervous body language is rarely a reason to disregard a candidate altogether. As mentioned, almost everyone feels nervous before an interview. Yet, with the right experience, that same candidate could perform amazingly in even other high-pressure environments like large meetings. Employers simply need to look past that nervous body language to see true candidate potential.

Telling Half the Story

Statistics stating that 55% of our conversational cues are non-verbal might seem impressive, but let’s reframe that for a second. If body language accounts for 55% of what we’re giving off at any given time, then you could also say that it only tells half of a story. And, half of a story simply isn’t enough when it comes to employing the perfect person for a job role. 

Body language misses out on perhaps some of the most important employment indicators, which should include –

  • Job experience
  • Areas of expertise
  • Previous employer references
  • Etc.

Crucially in an interview setting, body language also says very little about things like a candidate’s problem-solving skills, personability, and even their willingness to learn and grow within your company. This issue becomes even worse when you consider the forced body language that we’ve already discussed, which means that the half of the story you are getting might not even be correct!

None of this is to say that body language is completely null and void in an interview setting. But it does suggest that employers should consider this one element alongside more solid, reliable quality indicators that can be found on a candidate’s CV, or in their interview answers themselves. 

Compromising Inclusivity

Over two-thirds of employers value diversity in the workplace, and inclusive employment processes play a key part in making that possible. Body language that’s often subjective and based on country-specific norms falls unfortunately short of that diverse focus. 

This is true in a range of different ways. For example, neurodiverse individuals may struggle with things like extended eye contact and physical touch (e.g. a handshake), but that’s by no means a reflection of their suitability for a role.

It’s also vital to note that, while there are some cultural body language crossovers, experts have discovered crucial cultural kinesic differences. Body language basics like smiling and eye contact can especially vary depending on cultural influences, meaning that it would be unfair to judge all candidates on Western ideas of, say, smiling for politeness or eye contact for engagement. 

HireHive Tells the Whole Story

While body language will always hold some sway throughout your employment processes, it’s vital not to place too much power in kinesics which could prove misleading for the reasons outlined in this article. Instead, you should consider the whole story for every candidate that you interview. And, HireHive can help you to do that. 

Outside of variables like easily altered or misread body language, HireHive is a recruiting software that can help you base your employment decisions on more solid foundations. Automated job postings in the right places can ensure you’re able to find high-quality candidates in the first place. Complete application management and assessment capabilities can then help you to make informed, data-driven recruitment decisions based on facts that you can verify and easily check.

When taken alongside any notes that you make about a candidate’s body language, HireHive hiring software can ensure that you’re always making the right decisions for the right reasons. Simply request your free trial to settle on a higher quality of hire today.

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