Watch Your Body Language in an Interview & Save the Head Bobbing for Bonnarroo…

bobblehead body language

So… I’ve noticed a new and frightening phenomenon.  And I think I may be a perpetrator (heaven help me). In an attempt to stage a preemptive intervention, I thought there could be no better time than the present to address this odd and interesting tick – one that HR professionals, interviewers and interviewees abuse unabashedly.  The head nod.  Or as some others call it… the nice nod, the, “Yes sir may I have another,” or the banal “bob.”

I get it… you want me to know you’re engaged.  So, you bob your head in agreement while I speak. You want me to know you’re listening, so you nod your head at a slow, steady pace so I can see you hear me. You want me to see that you care, so you let the love flow with some righteous nodding.

All kidding aside, I know why you do this. Truly to show some connection.  However, when I watch people do the righteous head nod when I’m speaking (or worse yet interviewing them), it’s distracting, annoying and comes across as really affected. Something as unassuming as the friendly head nod takes over the room and not in the way the interviewee wants.

Don’t fall into the trap of “acting” like you are listening… stay still and just listen. There are naturally times when body language like a head nod is always appropriate – when it is authentic. Authenticity is always appropriate.  But too much of a good thing is never good.  There is always a tipping point.

  • The more you nod – the more you seem you are not listening.
  • The more affected your grin – the more you seem you are not listening.
  • The more you want me to SEE you agree with me – the more I know as an interviewer you are just waiting your turn to talk rather than listening to what I am really asking.

Truth be told, you really aren’t listening.  Admit it… bobblehead.

I do know you are well intended.  Interviewees… probably don’t even know you are doing this.  That’s OK, but in a market like this, being annoying is enough for you to not land a job.  And if you do land the job, don’t let your desire to show you care overshadow true authentic connection.

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Dawn Burke
Dawn Burke is an HR Leader, speaker and writer, specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture.  Her HR career has spanned the last 20 years, most recently serving as VP of People for Birmingham, Alabama's award-winning technology company, Daxko. That’s right – the very DAXKO that our very own KD is an alum of, because there are only so many people in the big B’ham who are worthy of a VP of People title. A true Generalist, she’s done a little bit of everything, but recruiting and training is where she gets her mojo. She’s based in the good ol' blogging capitol of the south, Birmingham, Alabama, where you can frequently find her listening to the Beatles and REM, watching Breaking Bad reruns (and Snapped and Dateline), enjoying serious amounts of coffee (and cheese, but not together!), dreaming of where she will travel next, and wondering how in the world this theatre grad ever got into football or HR…Check out her blog at or talk to Dawn via emailLinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter

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