The interviewer greets you in the waiting room and escorts you to his or her office. The few seconds it takes you to get to the room seem like eternity. Finally, you are gestured to sit down. And thus begins your interview.

Wish you could get a read on how well the interview is progressing? According to Alex Pentland, a professor at MIT, there are four cross-cultural signals that can do just that.

1st Influence Influence is how much impact you have on someone’s attention, interest and engagement in a conversation. If you are lively, engaging and attentive in your responses, your interviewer should be as well. If the interviewer isn’t reciprocal, then that may be a sign that you have not garnered enough influence. Let’s say the conversation proceeds to interests and you disclose your unyielding passion for Star Wars. And, in this scenario, the interviewer is also passionate about Star Wars. If you have gained enough influence, your interviewer would be more likely to disclose his or her love for the franchise. He or she would also be more likely to exhibit the same fervor as you did. Influence is about reciprocation.

2nd Mimicry Mimicry is mirroring and imitation. Throughout the course of a conversation, if there is enough influence people will start to imitate one another. You see this a lot at bars. If the interview is going well, both parties may lean forward and or back at the same time. They may also position their hands on the table, the same way, at the same time. If one person smiles, the other may also respond in kind.

3rd Activity If the interview is progressing favorably, the interviewer’s body language should be active. They should be using their hands to express what they are saying and talk at a faster rate than usual, and seem more engaged in the conversation.

4th Consistency It’s the frequency of how in sync verbal and nonverbal expressions are during the course of a conversation. When someone is excited about something, his or her language and tone should be in sync.

Finally, signals, or as Dr. Pentland calls them, “Honest Signals” are dependent on one another. You need each of the four signals to make an accurate read. You cannot get an accurate read during an interview solely because the interviewer is mirroring you. You have to take into consideration the other signals at play. Hope this guide helps the next time you find yourself interviewing for that dream job. Good luck out there!



Michael Aronsson

Michael is a marketing consultant with a passion for neuroscience. On the side, he assists a lab at NYU's Rusk institute which is researching traumatic brain injury and it's impact on empathy. When he isn't consulting, or head deep in the latest neuroscience literature, he is probably on a run.