Non-verbal cues to look for when hiring via Video Interviews

Non-verbal cues to look for when hiring via Video Interviews

We’d like to share a few items we’ve learned from our clients in hopes the info may help you hire better in the future. 2020 thrusted the world to video communications, this included the HR industry and its recruiting processes. Video interviewing is now a thing and projections and surveys shows that it is here to stay. So how does one effectively hire strong, high-performing individuals just by looking at them on video? The answer lies in soft skills.

Okay, allow me to explain. Take a look at these two guys:

[Guy #1]


[Guy #2]

Guy#2 ​ ​
What's the difference between these two? How do they make you 'feel'? What impression do they give? The answers are all subjective and they lie with the person making the hiring decision. Soft skills are the skills that typically do not get quantified at the job - communication, adaptability, leadership, teamwork, etc. These skills are crucial because they make up the individual’s personal attributes - meaning who they are. To us at Pyxai, this is key because in standard recruiting, people get hired for what they know, but get fired for who they are...and we're working on fixing that by creating technology to help identify individuals for who they are. Okay, with all that said, here are three non-verbal cues to look for when video interviewing:

1. Energy Levels

Would you hire guy #1 if he shows up talking about how he’s a great addition to your company? How about guy #2? (Ignore the beer)

A huge difference between these two fellas is how they convey their energy levels. They make you FEEL two different ways. Did you know that our brains have evolved to mimic the emotional output of those around us? This means that if a teammate is running around anxious and unsure, your team will (consciously or unconsciously) pick that up which in turn manifests unease in your organization. Whether we know it or not, we tend to naturally propagate the energy around us - which means your organization must have the right energy propagators for your teams (what does ‘right’ mean? Their energy levels must align with your culture values).

2. Body Language

Understanding body language presents an enormous opportunity to those that can decipher it. If you can read body language, your hires will no doubt be of higher quality and that means higher team productivity. Studies have shown that 55 percent of communication is non-verbal. Which means that actions speak louder than words by a long shot. Another 38 percent of communication comes down to verbal tone, which leaves a slim 7 percent for actual words themselves. With all that said, what does the body language of a winning job candidate look like? Here’s what to look for:

  1. Eye contact: The individual should be looking directly at the camera with sustained eye contact. Eye contact communicates confidence, leadership, strength, and intelligence. It is possible to be engaged without direct, constant eye contact, but make sure to look for some eye contact throughout the video interview. A person who avoids eye contact (looking up, down, sideways) coveys low confidence, suspicion (people tend to move their eyes around when they lie), or submission. Zero qualities you want in your teams which is why over 33% of hiring managers know within the first 90 seconds whether they will hire someone or not based on the quality of eye contact.
  2. Hand movements: Gesturing and thinking are linked to speech, which is probably why many leaders tend to use hand gestures to power up their talks. During a video interview you want to be able to see your job candidates hands to be able to fully grasp the person's communication skill level.

  3. Here’s what to look for:
    • 2a) Hidden Hands: This equals mistrust and so it’ll be challenging to establish trust. Believe it or not, this is linked to evolution - in caveman days it was important to see others' hands to determine friend/foe. It is common for job candidates to record from the shoulders up, which typically means no hands. Next time you review your video interviews, Pay attention to how many of the ones you really like show hand gestures and how many don’t!
    • 2b) No hand gestures: No movement of the hands may be perceived as indifference.
    • 2c)Hands open and palms at a 45-degree angle: Communicates honesty and openness.
    • 2d)Hands grasped in front: Similar to touching of the face, hair, and neck, gripping hands shows nervousness or being tentative.
    • 2e) Hands open with palms down: Shows the person knows what they're talking about.
    • 2f) Palms facing each other with fingers next to each other (not spread out): Conveys expertise and confidence about what is being communicated.

  4. Facial Expressions: The face holds lots of clues for us to decipher in others. Depending on the emotion, we tend to focus on different parts of the face. For example, if we want to know if someone is angry, we look at the eyes, or if they're happy, we look at the mouth. Here are other things to look for on your job candidate's face:
  • Eyes: It is very common to look at other people's eyes to determine emotion. If they are: - Looking away: it may mean distraction, disinterest - Blinking: Blink rate tends to increase when people are thinking more or are feeling stressed. Reduced blinking increases the power of a stare, it may convey interest or dominant in purpose. - Dialated or wide eyed: conveys interest (depending on how wide the eyes get, it reaches a point where it transitions to express surprise/fear)
  • Mouth: People tend to use their mouths to mask emotions. ie: a 'fake' smile. - Corners of the mouth drawn down: conveys sadness - A dropped jaw: signals surprise - Raised corners: shows happiness - One side of the mouth raised: may signal hate or contempt - Lip biting: may be a sign of anxiety - Pursed lips: indicates distaste - Covering the mouth: could mean they are hiding something
  • Eyebrows are major senders of signals and can be: - Relaxed: is a neutral signal; shows calm, composure - Just raised: indicates openness, calls attention, or emphasis to something - Raised and arched: shows surprise - Lowered and pulled together: often expresses anger, sadness, or fear - Drawn up in the inner corners: could convey sadness

3. Verbal Tone, Pitch, and Intonation

Sounds like I’m talking about music, but many of us are oblivious to the fact that the words that come out of our mouths are sounds and, like music, emit frequencies. These “vibes” translate to the tone we convey which is the emotion and attitude we put behind our words…a huge part in how we impart feelings to others. Tone is how something is said which conveys attitude or emotion. Pitch is how high or low the voice is. Intonation is the fluctuation of the pitch/tone which creates a voice pattern. The three combined will translate over as someone sounding happy, sad, excited, or upset. This trio also has the power to change the meaning of a sentence all together - just take the simple response: “Yeah, right”. Depending on how it’s said, it could mean anywhere from ‘agree’ to sarcastically ‘disagreeing'. This type of pragmatic communication eludes many people, because we mostly learn what we know of this topic socially via our culture. It requires knowing what to look for and many of us “think” we know and assume. If you’re able to decipher the art of tone, pitch, and intonation in others, it’ll go a LONG way to understanding others’ true emotions and attitudes. This means that even if a person tells you “I like it” you will have a much higher probability to correctly determine if they truly like it or not.

For video interviewing you want to look for job candidates that have strength, depth, vibrancy, and balance in the voice. A person who sounds strong and calm conveys composure which is great for a fast-moving startup. A person with a weak, nervous, or low voice may convey submission or frailty.

Please use this information as a general guideline and don’t go around axing people because they sound “weak". There are a myriad of elements that make up a great job candidate for a position…including the ‘gut’ instincts that kick in from time to time. In practice, people are dynamic and diverse (I’m not just talking about color or creed) which means that some of these non-verbal cues may or may not apply. For example, an excellent job seeker may have an eye disorder that may make it difficult to make eye contact, but if that’s what you’re looking for then you may miss out on that opportunity. Please be thoughtful, pragmatic, and malleable in this process.

Good Luck!