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I failed a job interview recently where the interviewer seemed much less comfortable than me with eye contact. He was fidgeting constantly and only briefly looking into my eyes and then quickly looking away. On the other hand, I remained confident, composed and was perfectly comfortable maintaining eye contact.

On paper, the interview went great and I had no problems with the whiteboard questions or any of the other questions. However, his body language was clearly not vibing with mine. He may have felt I came off too aggressive and overconfident. For the record, I did not think it was confrontational, in fact the conversation itself was pretty easy going and fun as far as technical interviews go.

I've been thinking about it and trying to come up with a way of calibrating my body language in the moment to make the other person more at ease. If anyone has any suggestions on reading, I'd love to hear them. I've read that FBI agent's book [1] since then and found it a little bit helpful, but nothing earthshattering. The author is more concerned with cracking/breaking people than making them comfortable.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/What-Every-BODY-Saying-Speed-Reading/d...

From the description, I would not be surprised if the cause for the interviewer's behavior was that the decision had already been made to hire someone else. Eye contact patterns, if they have significance, probably reflect some internal state, e.g. confidence.

"The author is more concerned with cracking/breaking people than making them comfortable."

Incorrect. The author is retired FBI Agent, Joe Navarro, [0] an expert on reading and interpreting non-verbal body language. One of the cornerstone of non-verbals, explained in WEBIS, is the comfort/discomfort paradigm. [1],[2]

Is a person comfortable? Why not? Is there a mismatch between verbal communication and non-verbal actions? This is where rapport comes in, the ability to make someone feel at ease and something taught by the FBI when interviewing. They don't "break" people, they charm them by putting them at ease, let them drop their guard and inquire further. The earth shattering point of WEBIS is everybody exhibits these body language responses and I consider it to be a sort of human response API regardless of country, age or sex.

As for eye contact. Hold too little contact and you appear submissive. Too much and you may be signalling to another person you are aggressive.

[0] backgrounder by Octavio Blanco "This former FBI spy hunter fled Cuba at age 9" ~ http://money.cnn.com/2015/10/27/news/economy/joe-navarro-cub...

[1] Navarro, 2007.

[2] read Charles Fifield, "Setting the Sale Through Persuasive Communication" http://www.baylor.edu/business/kellercenter/news.php?action=...

Thanks for the links, I'm reading them now. I appreciate the informative correction to my previous post.

I confess I must have misread his points because many of the stories are about criminal interrogations (although there are plenty of business stories too). I just bought his other book Louder Than Words and I will be reading that looking for the charm/rapport aspect instead of "breaking".

This kind of analysis feels flawed because people from different cultures have different body language.

There are differences, but there are also some [near-]universals. Have you read the book?

Definitely find a copy of Impro by Keith Johnstone. Most likely the source of the poster's improv games. Really a lot of great insight about status and how to play status like a game.

The Internet Archived has referenced this full scan of the book on PDF.yt: http://pdf.yt/d/KIkLrSPi_3lzPl5v

No idea how legal this is though, download at your own risk.

This book is so different from what I normally read that I would have never considered picking it up, but it seems to have only glowing reviews. Thanks for the suggestion!

This seems like a very unique book, thank you for the suggestion! I'll be reading this one for sure.

Try mirroring his body language next time.


If someone is uncomfortable with eye contact I try to make less of it while still being engaged in listening.

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