Interviewing Myth #5: Maintain Constant Eye Contact

Do you want to hire better? If you’re a CEO, a manager at any level, or a Human Resources professional, of course you do. This blog is part of a series dispelling 10 myths about interviewing candidates for hire – “myths” because they are common recommendations for the “best” ways to interview… but from our experience, they are wrong.

Interviewing Myth #5: Maintain Constant Eye Contact

This is related to Interviewing Myth #2: Take Few Notes. They say “by taking few notes you can maintain eye contact, which is necessary for rapport.”

Interview books tell you that, just like in all relationships – dating, selling something, communicating with your doc, meeting people, etc. – if you cease eye contact, if you look away, it conveys negative vibes. Maybe you’re:

  • uncomfortable with the other person
  • uncomfortable with the questions you’re asking
  • uncomfortable with the responses you’re hearing
  • trying to trick the other person
  • lying
  • disgusted by the other person

Your parents told you, “Learn to greet people with a smile, shake their hand, and look them in the eye,” right? That’s generally good advice, but your parents also taught you something else: “DON’T STARE!” Your parents were right to give you both bits of advice, but in the interviewing world the common advice way overstates how much eye contact is best.

Recommendation: Maintain eye contact about 50% of the time.

At our last Topgrading Workshop our president Chris Mursau dramatized how 100% eye contact harms rapport. He took a chair kitty corner from an attendee, Susan, and said, “Let’s pretend we’re 2 hours into a 4-hour interview. We just came back from a break, and I say, “Susan, let’s talk about your next job at Acme. Tell me, what were your major responsibilities?” Susan responds but Chris doesn’t take notes. He asks, “What were your major successes, your accomplishments?” She talks again and Chris is looking intently into her eyes and takes no notes. “Ew,” she laughed, “You’re staring and it’s creepy.”

Recommendation: Don’t be creepy.

Take a lot of notes and look down when you’re writing or typing. It’s natural for you to show you’re listening and interested by nodding, saying “Uh-huh,” “Sure,” etc. and interrupting from time to time to ask for clarification or ask a follow-up question.

Recommendation: Try a Tandem Interview.

In Topgrading there are two interviewers. With the Tandem Topgrading Interview the principal interviewer takes some notes and maintains 75% eye contact, and the secondary interviewer takes constant notes and only has about 20% eye contact. Perfect!


I hope these tips help you avoid costly mis-hires!


Interviewing Myth #1: Don’t Interview Behind Your Desk

Interviewing Myth #2: Take Very Few Notes

Interviewing Myth #3: Always Be “Neutral” In Interviews

Interviewing Myth #4: Never “Lead the Witness”

Improve your hiring success with Topgrading. Our proven hiring process will transform your selection methodology so that you get better hiring results.  Our leadership and candidate assessment tools will help you assess, hire, retain, and grow outstanding team members. Contact us to learn more!

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