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Sometimes when assessing a candidate, it’s not so much what they say as it is perhaps how they say it… or what they don’t say. As a hiring professional, you have to be able to read body language and facial expressions as much as you do resumes and cover letters. And you have to be able to interpret the sounds of an applicant’s silence as well.

The Unspoken Interview – How To Interpret What Isn’t Said

The One Street Interview

Have you ever had a candidate sit in your office for an interview and when you ask them if they have any questions about the job, the company, the culture, or the environment they would be working in… and they say no? What does that tell you?

Even if they have a friend already in the workplace who has told them all they need to know, it’s interviewing protocol to come prepared with questions for the interviewer. A lack of questions may mean that the candidate simply doesn’t care enough to ask because they don’t really want the job or they have another offer or they simply don’t care that much about work. Even if the candidate does actually want the job, do you really want someone who acts disengaged?

The Crossed Arms Interview

It’s a bit of a conundrum, trying to know the meaning behind the lack of a message. But their body language and facial expressions should give you some clues. In a digital interview, look for candidates who look directly at the screen and, importantly, remember to smile! In an in-person interview, look for candidates who are maintaining eye contact, and showing engagement by physically facing you.

The Lack of Information Interview

What about if you ask them what they think they might enjoy or not enjoy about the job or what they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about their last job? Here, silence really can be deadly.

If they have nothing they can tell you that they enjoyed about their job, chances are they didn’t. And if they didn’t enjoy their job, and left it, and are looking to do the same thing at your company, will things turn out any better? And if they can ONLY tell you the things they enjoyed but are unable to identify the things they didn’t like, why did they leave?

There may be legitimate reasons. Perhaps they were uncomfortable with the way things were done in a previous job and don’t want to disparage their previous employer. Or perhaps they simply are a positive person who chooses to only focus on the good things. Either way you want to look for candidates who are transparent about their career history.


In order to hire the candidate who is most likely able to succeed in the open role, you need to pay attention to what their silence and body language tells you. To learn what our clients are doing to access candidates, click here for a free consultation with a RIVS account executive!

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