How to read verbal and nonverbal cues to interview with confidence

We’ve all been there—you spend weeks (or even months) preparing for a big interview, then on the day the meeting races by and you leave thinking, “What just happened?” It’s easy to doubt yourself after the fact, especially as you wait for a decision or feedback. 

So how do you prepare for an interview process so you can walk away with confidence? It comes down to both verbal and nonverbal communication cues.


First, set yourself up for success with your verbal introduction. People really want to know three things:

What drives you? Many interviews include (and often start with) the question, “Tell me about yourself.” Because the interview time is limited, your interviewer is not looking for a surface level answer. Let them know your core values, how these have driven your choices in life, and how these values will help you serve the company.

How can your unique experiences serve the company? Frame your experiences in a context that your potential employer will understand: through storytelling. Almost all stories involve challenges, goals, and a journey. When speaking about your prior experience, answer these questions: What challenges did your prior employer face? What were you doing to help them achieve their goals? What did you achieve? How did you do it? Then, let your potential employer know how you can apply these skills, lessons, and achievements to your new position.

Who are you? Will they enjoy spending time with you? It’s important to let employers know about who you are outside of work so that they can build a human connection with you, too. Do you have any hobbies or pets? Maybe you went to the same college or university as your interviewer? Do you do any volunteer work? How will these qualities make you a great fit for a team?

First impressions make a big difference, and if you can look back at these first moments of your interview with confidence, you’re already well on your way to success. 

Once you are clear about your introduction, the next piece to focus on for your interview is your body language, or the nonverbal communication cues.

When we gesture, we can speed up our thought processes and provide better answers to questions. Therefore, it makes sense to implement gestures when under pressure in an interview.

Aim to gesture above waist height or above the table, so that you are more visually engaging. When your gestures align with the message you’re communicating, you will appear significantly more convincing and confident. Don’t overthink it. Remember to breathe, and imagine you’re speaking to someone you are comfortable with. 


How do you know if this is working? Have you ever noticed when you are chatting with friends in a coffee shop, you may move and speak at the same tempo? You may even scratch your head at the same time without realizing. This is a sign of rapport, or nonverbally traveling together. You can see if you are on the same wavelength as someone by noticing how they move.

In sales, people apply this knowledge through a strategy known as mirroring. I do not suggest that you mimic people, as this can make them feel manipulated. However, it is worth noticing their nonverbal behaviour and being aware of how similar it is to yours. If you feel a lack of connection, then you may like to adjust your actions to more closely match theirs.

For example, if your interviewer is speaking quickly and making short, snappy gestures, then you will be well-advised to pick up your pace, too, to better match the tone of the meeting. 

In this process, be careful not to lose yourself. You should only do this to be accommodating. If your interviewer is on a completely different wavelength, you may be better off looking for work elsewhere, as making vast adjustments in your behavior to match a culture that isn’t right for you may be exhausting.

But don’t worry, here are a two sure nonverbal signs that good rapport has been established:

Eye contact: When someone is engaged with you, they rarely make eye contact 100% of the time. If they seem to do this, they may have glazed over, letting their mind wander to other things. An engaged level of eye contact for a listener is around 80%. They may look away to consider what you are saying before looking back to you.

Head tilt: When we listen intently and empathically, we tend to tilt our heads. You may need to slow down and clarify what you are saying to check they have understood, but this is a great sign that your listener is truly focused on your words. 

Everyone gets nervous when it comes to interviews, but by keeping these simple tips in mind, you can walk away knowing that you’ve done everything you can to land the job:

  • Be confident, clear and concise
  • Use the STAR format to answer behavioural questions
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Mirror the interviewer
  • Dress the part

Confident, clear and concise is key when it comes to interviewing. Employers are looking for candidates who can communicate effectively and efficiently.

The STAR format is a great way to answer behavioural questions. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. This format allows you to paint a picture for the interviewer of how you handled a specific situation.

Practicing for your interview is a must. You don’t want to be caught off guard by any questions. And the more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel.

Mirroring the interviewer is a great way to build rapport. Pay attention to their body language and copy it. This will make them feel more comfortable with you and make it more likely that they’ll want to hire you.

Finally, dress the part. You want to look like you’re already a part of the team. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have!

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The above content was inspired and adapted from articles on LinkedIn, with thanks to the contributors.