my interviewers keep yawning in my face

A reader writes:

Here’s a new one that is baffling me. I’m seriously looking for work, and generally get called to interview every few resumes I submit. I treat every interview seriously, and prepare, bring work samples, dress professionally, arrive 5 minutes early, make good eye contact, firm handshake, ask great questions (they respond with “What a good question” before answering). I’ve had practice. I stay relaxed, positive, and even “bond” with the interviewer with a friendly comment before we get started. I believe the problem is age discrimination, but that’s another subject.

Recently I’ve run into this “yawning” thing at the last 3 interviews. I’m sitting up straight, leaning in slightly, being attentive and actively listening…and the interviewer (all men) suddenly have a big yawn, without trying to cover it, sometimes two in a row!

I sit there, don’t flinch and pretend it didn’t happen, and stay on point. First was a couple who owned a company. She was alert and on the ball, her husband not only yawned twice, he leaned back in his chair for a B-I-G stretch, then sat back up. That was borderline humiliating! I remained poker-faced and on point. Next interview with a 3-member panel, I was waiting for questions (after answering several very concisely) the guy on the end yawned several times, without trying to cover it…it felt like not covering a sneeze. Poker face again.

Yesterday, I met with the director of a global company, and prepared all weekend for this critical interview. I studied everything about the recent merger, you name it. I brought my copies of resume, references, skills assessments…I was charged up and arrived 10 minutes early.

He greeted me warmly, we went into his huge office, I took my seat. He asked me a few casual questions, I answered without rambling. He seemed pleased, talked about the job a few sentences, then suddenly did 2-3 solid yawns, got a grip and continued. All of these yawners never acknowledge/apologize for the blatant yawning (not even “excuse me”). They all act like it’s nothing. I was waiting for a loud belch next.

I’ve had many interviews, done the research, body language awareness and all. I come in with confidence, enthusiasm, a strong handshake and stay on point. When these big bear yawns happen, it tends to throw me off, so I struggle to get back into the groove. I feel like I should just get up and leave, if they blatantly indicate they are that bored! All the hours of preparation, clothes, driving…feels like I wasted my time. If I did a big, open mouth yawn, I’d be horrified. I’d do whatever it took to stifle the urge! Like pushing your tongue HARD against the roof of your mouth to stop a sneeze. (try it!)

If I was truly boring, monotone or nasal voice, rattled on forever, didn’t answer the questions, or give clear, concise answers…I could see it. These “yawners” happen before lunch and after. By yesterday, it was affecting my confidence…I almost wanted to say, “I take it you had a rough night? Or are you bored with my answers?” (or try not get angry from all the hours of preparation all weekend). I try to keep a poker face and keep things moving along…if it kills me.

ARGH!!! What is going on? I’m at the point of selling my home and retiring in Maui. This is humiliating and degrading, and I’m not the overly sensitive type. What am I doing wrong?

I … think you’ve got to let it go.

Yes, it’s rude, and yes, it highlights the double standard for interviewer/candidate behavior, since it’s the kind of thing that you probably couldn’t do as a candidate without being penalized for it.

But by your account, they’re greeting you warmly, seeming pleased at your answers, and exclaiming that you’re asking good questions. Those are people who sound reasonably engaged in the conversation.

A yawn isn’t the politest of actions, but on its own, it’s not an indication that you’re wasting your time. You shouldn’t let yourself feel humiliated by it. That’s giving way too much power to a mildly inconsiderate gesture (which, controllable or not, is still a natural bodily reaction, as opposed to if your interviewers were, say, checking their phones the whole time or refusing to engage with you in a substantive way).

I would ignore it. Pretend it’s not happening, don’t let it rattle or anger you, and continue right along.

{ 150 comments… read them below }

  1. Colette

    I agree. You’re taking this very personally when it may have nothing to do with you whatsoever. It may be a sign that they’re bored – but it could be a sign that they’re tired or that the room you’re in as poor air quality or that they have a medical condition. Being humiliated by it is an overreaction.

    1. Florida

      Agreed. When they start making yawn noises, and stretching their arms up in their air, then you might have reason to be concerned.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        In her defense, she did say that one of the men leaned back in his chair and did a BIG stretch. That part is -not- involuntary. I don’t know that I’d make it into a big deal, but it’s pretty rude.

        1. penny

          Still maybe this person had been in meetings all day with no chance to stretch and it finally got to them. Who knows. I yawn in interviews sometimes but its never been due to the person boring me, it’s hard to stop a yawn.

    2. AMT

      Yep. I’m trying to imagine a situation in which the LW not only happens to bore every one of his/her interviewers, but they all choose to communicate this fact in exactly the same way. This is 100% a coincidence.

      Also, anyone else yawn like crazy reading this?

      1. Prismatic Professional

        Me! I can’t stop yawning now! That’s what happens when it’s the middle of the afternoon energy slump and someone mentions it…

        I actually had to pause typing because I was yawning so much!

          1. Sarahnova

            It’s definitely not! They’ve done studies and everything. Probably about 50% of AAM’s readers will have felt the urge to yawn on reading this.

  2. KathyGeiss

    I’m impressed you don’t yawn in response. I literally yawn when my niece makes her stuffed animals fake yawn; I am very susceptible to the contagion.

    But Allison is on point, let it go. Often my yawns signal nothing other than it being a bit stuffy inside. It’s often not related to boredom or even tiredness for me (although I do cover my mouth and I avoid it if I’m in an important meeting).

    1. Relly

      I’ve yawned five times reading this post because even reading about yawning makes me want to yawn.

      Yawning is for the most part involuntary (at least for me anyway). Most people don’t yawn with intent to insult.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian

      My son takes great delight in his power to make me go into a fit of yawns just by saying, “Hey, mom, yawns are contagious.”

  3. NJ Anon

    I wouldn’t take it personally. Yes, it’s rude but I don’t think it is a reflection on you. Age discrimination is another story!

  4. Xarcady

    Have any or all of these interviews been held after lunch? Many people get sleepy or tired right after lunch. If possible, I’d try scheduling interviews for the morning and see if anything changes.

    But I agree with AAM, I think you’ve just stumbled across three slightly boorish men who clearly don’t see the need to hide a yawn.

    1. INTP

      The OP says it happens before and after lunch. There still could be a time of day correlation, though. If most of these interviews are happening at the beginning or end of the day or right before and after lunch to minimize time out of the office, you’re catching people when they’ve just woken up, are hungry or digesting, or are ready to go home. They should apologize but I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

      1. Melissa

        “…you’re catching people when they’ve just woken up, are hungry or digesting, or are ready to go home.”

        That pretty much covers the whole work day for me.

  5. grasshopper

    Let it go; you’re being overly sensitive.

    Keep in mind that that the interviewers are probably interviewing other candidates as well. They’ve probably been stuck in the same stuffy meeting room most of the day. You are super aware of your body language because the attention is focused on you. Many interviews don’t even think about the attention that the candidates might be focusing on them and are much more relaxed.

    1. Lefty

      That may be it. I know there have been times when we’ve had interviews all day so we’re stuck in a small conference room for hours. On top of that, I already have a demanding way-more-than-full-time job so when I have interviews, I have to come in early to prep for them, making it a really long day.

      All that said, if I yawn I cover my mouth and apologize with something about the stuffy room or something so the candidate knows it’s not them.

  6. Allison

    I wouldn’t take it personally either, but really, so many dudes yawning during interviews and not covering their mouths? Talk about rude behavior, and the fact that it’s been happening so often is an issue. Not an issue you can do anything about, but an issue nonetheless. I mean yeah, I get it, people are tired, but cover your darn mouth!

    1. qkate

      Yeah. It’s lame that people do it, but I also wouldn’t take much offense to it, either.

  7. Haddie

    I yawn all the time, it doesn’t have much to do with me being tired or bored. Don’t let it get to you, seriously.

    It is kind of weird to not cover your mouth though, some people don’t think that way but I do. Not everyone is taught that that is rude though, so keep that in mind.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Yeah, I mean, I cover my mouth with my forearm because I’m in public health and I always try to err on the side of being sanitary. (I know, it’s really for sneezing, but it’s a good habit to be in, right?)

      But it just never occurred to me that yawning while covering your mouth could be thought of as rude. Then again, I don’t make a lot of noise, I’m pretty quiet, and I can easily suppress a yawn. But most people consider sneezing and yawning involuntary habits, they’re actually more semi-voluntary, in that you can change the way you do it (sound, motion) if you work at it, but most people probably don’t even realize if they’re loud, or feel they shouldn’t have to apologize for something involuntary.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        The rude part comes in, I think, from the implication that you’re boring them, and but also from others having to see the inside of your mouth.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          Well, as I said, I cover my mouth, and the OP didn’t say they weren’t doing so. As for other peoples’ perceptions of my emotional state, I think that assumptions along those lines are counterproductive, which was kind of the point many of us were trying to make.

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            Oh, I agree. My comment wasn’t to say that it’s right to get upset about it. You said “it just never occurred to me that yawning while covering your mouth could be thought of as rude,” and I misread it as saying it never occurred to you that yawning while *not* covering your mouth was rude. I was pointing out why some people think it is. Sorry for misreading!

    2. LBK

      Likewise! I am a serial yawner in all kinds of situations where I’m definitely not bored, inattentive, tired, etc. It just happens, no matter how hard I’m focusing or how awake I feel.

      The fact that it’s a trend of men doing it seems a bit odd, but I wonder if there’s an element of confirmation bias at play here. It almost feels like the OP is reading it as sexist men finding her boring because she’s a woman – almost dismissive of your qualifications to be in the role – but if they’re giving you good feedback and seeming happy with your responses otherwise, I wouldn’t read into it that way.

      1. LBK

        Re-reading the letter and seeing the ageism comment is also giving me pause…I get the general sense that the OP is completely frustrated with the job searching process and is resorting to cosmic explanations (everyone must be discriminating against me! I’m somehow unintentionally boring people!) because there has to be some other reason she, as a qualified candidate and good employee, isn’t getting these jobs.

        While completely understandable, I also think it’s extremely self-destructive – no matter how good your poker face is, frustration seeps into the way you talk and act in interviews. I know it’s hard, but I’d do everything in your power to separate out each interview experience rather than trying to see trends between them. You’ll only hurt yourself in the long run if you carry the resentment of rejection through the entire process.

        Remember that while job hunting is one continuous arc from your perspective – from the day you start job searching until the day someone hires you – each company only sees it from the day you apply with them until the day they make their hiring decision. They’re only watching one episode of your show; don’t make it the dramatic mid-season cliffhanger, full of tension and fear.

        1. Adam

          Exceptionally well said. It’s always hard to keep emotion out of a job hunt because for the candidate it’s never just one job. But for the employer interviewing you their tuning in in the middle of the season, with no means or incentive of going back and seeing your story from the beginning.

        2. Not So NewReader

          Well done. OP, we live in a time where 28 hour days and 8 day weeks ARE possible. People are tired and they feel stretched all the time.
          I don’t understand why this can’t be a case of someone having a very long day and then they have a lovely conversation with you. It could occur to them, “Gee, this is a nice chat it feels good to have pleasant conversation for a change.” At that point they suddenly, realize how much they needed to relax for a minute. Why can’t this be a positive?
          Once in awhile, I travel to visit family. It feels so good to be away from the ho-hum every day stuff, I usually relax very well and I sleep like I did when I was a kid. These people are FAR from boring, I assure you.

  8. Erika

    Yawning is borderline involuntary and probably has nothing to do with you. As a working mom with two kids under two, I yawn all the time because I’m EXHAUSTED. These people likely have no idea you’re taking their yawns this personally.

  9. Folklorist

    After so many lately, I was totally prepared for this to be a crazy “Is this Legal???” question! (Glad it wasn’t!)

  10. Ellie H

    I think this might be one of the things that you notice once and then can’t stop noticing. I usually do not notice when others yawn.
    Yawning very loudly and openly is not very polite, so if somebody does so, I can see how it could seem to indicate that he or she is perhaps not super invested in the interaction. But I’m pretty sure that yawning is a random physical reflex that has more to do with feeling physically tired much moreso than boredom.

    1. Cath in Canada

      Yeah, I was also going to suggest some kind of confirmation bias. Maybe you had a couple of interviews in a row where it was more obvious than usual, because of the big stretch or whatever other reason, and now you’re hyper-aware of it and noticing it in situations where you usually wouldn’t.

  11. Sara M

    I yawn almost compulsively in allergy season. It’s a sign of histamine reaction. Given that it’s April, I bet you’re seeing some people with allergies.

    1. the_scientist

      Is it really? All this time, I’ve been blaming my compulsive allergy season nodding on being mildly to moderately stoned on antihistamines!

    2. Suz

      Me too. may also be due to lack of sleep because allergies interfere with your breathing when you’re trying to sleep. I feel like I get no sleep during allergy season

    3. C Average

      Haha. YES.

      Last spring I had horrible allergies and, having never had them before, tried a variety of different meds. I think I spent a month and a half borderline comatose.

    4. simonthegrey

      I yawn a lot while working out; it’s because of allergies, and when we’re doing our spin class, for some reason, it really makes me yawn constantly. Not bored or tired there!

  12. tesyaa

    Maybe they’re tired from heavy interview schedules in addition to trying to do their normal jobs.

    1. Dovahkiin

      Yup, that’s what I’m thinking.

      A big ol’ open-mouthed yawn without a hand covering or an excuse me is yeah, not polite, but those marathon interview schedules can be exhausting, and when all your focus is on the candidates in front of you, you can forget that they’re evaluating you too.

  13. KT

    I think this is one of those things where you’re so frustrated/exhausted by the interviewing/job-search process that everything is especially irritating to you.

    It’s really not a reflection on you. It’s a yawn. Maybe they had a late night taking care of a new baby, maybe their dog was sick, maybe they had to work a 14-hour day or stayed up reading the Harry Potter series, who knows? But tiredness is part of life.

    Please don’t it personally or let it interrupt you–thats the bigger issue here. If it throws you off, you need to reframe your thinking. Instead of thinking it’s a reflection of you, try to think of it as something involuntary, like a cough or a hiccup fit.

    1. Rita

      I’ve been yawning all day because I thought it was a good idea to stay up super late to finish binge watching Daredevil on Netflix. Totally worth it though.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        That right there is why I have not watched it yet, although I am looking forward to it.

      2. Payroll Lady

        And now I know what I am doing Friday night! My son has been nagging me to have a Daredevil marathon!

      3. LBK

        All of these Netflix “all episodes at once” releases are killing me! I don’t have nearly enough time to watch Daredevil and Bloodline – I’m barely done watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for the 20th time.

      4. Marzipan

        In the space of just under one week I’ve binge-watched not only Daredevil but also *both* seasons of Orphan Black. It’s slightly surprising I’m awake at all!

  14. AMG

    I yawn when I’m exercising. My heart rate can be way up and I’m totally focused and then it starts. I think it’s my body’s way of getting a little more oxygen.

    And sunlight in the morning (especially when it’s cold out) makes my right eye–but only my right eye–water. People sometimes think I am showing up to work crying and I’m not.

    My point is…it doesn’t seem to be about you because when my body does weird things it’s not what it looks like. Good luck in your job search!

    1. Simplytea

      Wow didn’t see this before I posted–me too!! We should start a yawning-exercise club.

      :)

    2. JB (not in Houston)

      I yawn a lot when I’m pre-asthma flare, when breathing is starting to get a little bit harder for me. And it’s annoying because the yawning doesn’t seem to help at all, but it does make me want to take a nap.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Yawns are a way for the body to take in more oxygen. Some people breath shallowly when they are sitting for long periods of time. So, the brain is going to get an impulse to yawn and get some oxygen into the system.

    4. Bunny

      For me, it’s whenever I am being trained in literally anything. No matter how interested I am in the subject, how engaged, how actively participating I am or how good the teacher is… as soon as we get into any kind of depth of teaching me stuff, I start uncontrollably yawning.

      I’ve taken to just letting it happen and apologising, excusing it on hot rooms, big lunches and insufficient caffeine, because I found it’s easier to get a trainer to laugh off an obvious yawn than it is to dial down their concern once I’ve suppressed enough yawns that my eyes are suddenly puffy, red and streaming and I look like I’m trying not to cry!

  15. Richard

    Honestly wouldn’t have thought twice about something like this. If I was going to read anything into it, it would be that they’re comfortable with you, which is a good sign.

  16. Alternative

    Yawning is involuntary and definitely doesn’t always indicate boredom. For example, Apolo Ohno, the Olympic speed skater, was often seen yawning right before his big races, which is certainly not a boring situation. The yawning is probably not a reflection on you.

    However! It is rude when people make no attempt to minimize or cover it in your presence. But there’s nothing you can do but ignore it.

    Good luck, and hope one of these interviews turns into a job for you soon.

    1. LBK

      I asked about how to deal with being a chronic yawner in an open thread a few weeks ago, and Alison said it can be a nervous reaction – I’d bet that’s why Apolo does it. I’d be pretty nervous before an Olympic event!

  17. Malissa

    OP I think you are fixating on this. Which is bound to happen when you go to interview after interview and don’t get results. Heaven knows my current fixation is on how people only want to hire people that have industry experience, but if they don’t hire from outside the industry how can people get that experience?
    As for as how you are handling it, you seem to be doing fine. Venting and wondering outside of the interview is perfectly normal.
    Just know it isn’t about you. It’s about these few people and their lack of manners.
    Besides do you really want to work for people that are lacking those manners anyway? (joke)

  18. Petronella

    “I think this is one of those things where you’re so frustrated/exhausted by the interviewing/job-search process that everything is especially irritating to you.”
    Definitely this. Don’t take it personally. I hate being yawned at too, especially when people don’t close their mouths which is disgusting but becoming surprisingly acceptable.
    I’m sorry if you are experiencing age discrimination.

  19. YandO

    WHY????

    Why do people think yawning indicates boredom?

    It does not. It just happens. Often it happens to me when I am nervous or stressed. It’s not personal. Like a sneeze is not personal.

    1. Leah

      Yes, this. I’ve yawned when I’m in the middle of a great, exciting movie or book. I’m definitely not bored then.

    2. Kelly L.

      I thought I was the only one who stress-yawned! I used to get chewed out for it as a kid.

      1. YandO

        Me. It happens to me. All. The. Time.

        Worst part? I often don’t notice it and find out I yawned when the other person gets offended or calls me “lazy” or asks me whether I am tired.

      2. Chani

        and then you’re twice as stressed because you got in trouble for something you couldn’t control. :P

      3. Emily, admin extraordinaire

        My third-grade teacher chewed us out if we yawned in class. She told us that the only reasons to yawn are if we’re bored or tired, and there was no reason that we should be either. Yeah, right.

        1. Ethyl

          I had a boss at a temp assignment who told me off for yawning. It was totally weird to me because it’s just an involuntary reaction! She seemed to think it was some kind of inexcusably rude thing. I couldn’t even be professional at her when she discussed it with me, I was so surprised at her reaction.

    3. JB (not in Houston)

      Because it can indicate boredom. No, it doesn’t always mean that. It usually doesn’t mean that. But it certainly can mean that. When you’re bored, you’re not engaged. When you’re not engaged, it’s easier to get sleepy.

    4. Bored and Yawning

      I totally dislike art museums; they do absolutely nothing for me (unless I see something I’m familiar with). Take me to one and watch me yawn. It becomes non-stop and I have to hide myself from the tour guide!

      That’s boredom, not stress.

  20. Simplytea

    I actually yawn when I’m working out–I have breathing problems. In meetings I sometimes will warn people I’m not tired, but have breathing issues so they won’t have the same thought process you are in the midst of.

    Especially with allergy season, you should expect people to be yawning more often, as congestion can make it hard to breath through the nose and prevent the lungs from filling to their full capacity.

    Also, if you’re in a city, pollution can cause late onset asthma. I wouldn’t take it personally.

  21. Retail Lifer

    I’ve yawned a million times while interviewing people. The interview process itself isn’t exactly thrilling for me. However, I always cover my mouth and then sincerely apologize. It’s the PROCESS that bores me, not the candidates. I wouldn’t ever want to give the impression that I’m bored with the person sitting in front of me, and it’s incredibly rude that the interviewers didn’t apologize and ensure the OP understood that. I mean, how hard is it to say, “I am so sorry. It’s been a long day today!”?

    1. JB (not in Houston)

      I agree with your whole comment. I yawn a lot when interviewing and when talking to interns, and our interns tend to be sensitive about wasting my time with their questions, so I feel bad about it. I always apologize and reassure them that they aren’t boring me. But there’s really nothing I can do to stop it from happening. I mean, I can hold it in, but then I make a weird face, and then they know that I’m holding in a yawn, and they’re still worried that I’m boring them.

      1. Merry and Bright

        Apologies for my comments down below. Not aimed at anyone in particular. If the interviewer apologises it makes all the difference and breaks the tension a bit. :)

    2. LBK

      Great point. No matter how engaging the candidates are, it’s just not that exciting or fun to sit in one room listening to people talk all day. Especially since some of them probably aren’t going to be that engaging.

    3. bridget

      I don’t apologize for yawning, because for the most part they are relatively small yawns, not noisy, and I barely register that they are happening myself. Only when I have weird fits of near-constant yawns does it become enough of a problem that I say something like “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I keep yawning, must be tired.”

  22. Allison

    I think a lot of commenters are missing the point, it’s not the yawning itself that’s rude. Yawning is one of those bodily functions that happen whether we want them to or not, but the polite thing to do is minimize it (as in, don’t open your mouth as far as it’ll go and add vocals if you can help it), cover your mouth, and say “excuse me” or “sorry about that.” Turning your face away is also a good idea – again, if possible. It’s one thing if you’re around your friends, yawn as big as you want, but a job interview is one of those times where you really should mind your manners, regardless of which side of the table you’re sitting on.

    1. Gwen

      I think it’s less that commenters are missing the point, and more that there’s nothing the OP can do about it, so we might as well try to dispel the notion that yawning always = bored, since that might help them swallow it more easily going forward. I totally agree that it’s weird and rude to yawn in someone’s face during a job interview without trying to stifle it at all (I’m even covering my mouth in my own cube as I continually yawn reading this post!), but unless OP wants to confront the interviewers for their rudeness, which is probably also not a great idea, there’s nothing she can do but grin and bear it. And she does seem more upset by it than it probably warrants, due to other job search related frustrations.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        I think you’re both right. A lot of the commenters have been focusing on whether yawning itself is rude and not on the failure to cover it up or apologize. That was totally rude. But I also agree that there isn’t anything that the OP can do about it other than change how she reacts to it, so commenters are right to focus on that part of it.

  23. Leah

    Totally agree with AAM’s advice, and that this might be more about the stress of job interviews than the actual issue.

    Also, I really think you should reconsider arriving more than a couple of minutes early for interviews? It can be annoying for the interviewer, since they either have to make you wait for ten minutes while they finish whatever they were doing, or stop their work and come see you early. When I was looking for work, I would get to interviews 30 minutes early because I was nervous, but just hang out at a coffee shop until it was time.

    1. TheLazyB

      I tend to arrive 10-15 mins early but assume that I will wait until the interview time. It never seems to do me any harm. I just had two job offers in less than an hour today :)

    2. Bunny

      I always give myself enough time to ask reception where the toilet is and quickly pop in – to pee, so I don’t end up wriggling through the interview, and to check myself over for any smudges or untidyness from the journey. So, 10-15 minutes, and I’m calm, collected and ready and in the waiting area a good five minutes before the interviewer – who was notified when I first arrived – gets to me.

  24. Kelly L.

    That is so weird, that this particular thing keeps happening to you! That said, I think it’s likely just a really weird coincidence.

    1. Snork Maiden

      Are we sure there isn’t some horrible career advice post that’s being sent round on how you can use one simple trick (yawning!) to identify people who are “on your wavelength” and yawn in response?

    2. Mpls

      There are probably other similarities between all the interviews, but this one is sticking out because it annoyed OP. Humans are hardwired to find patterns, even when there isn’t any causal relationship.

    3. fposte

      The other possibility is that it happened to all of these people’s interviewees, but the OP wouldn’t know that because she wasn’t in those interviews.

  25. LaraW

    OMG, I have to stop reading this because my eyes are watering from all the yawning I’m doing! :-D

  26. Kate M

    Yeah, once in a while anxiety manifests into breathing difficulties, like I feel like I can’t take a deep enough breath. Which leads me to yawning constantly. If I stopped to excuse myself after each one, it would get annoying. There are a million reasons why people could be yawning; it almost certainly doesn’t have to do with you.

  27. Chriama

    I don’t think yawning is some sort of Freudian slip that indicates they’re not really interested in what you’re saying or they’re unimpressed with your candidacy. By your own account the interviewers have been interested, responsive and engaged. Therefore, I think the issue is your own pet peeve/ fixation on yawning.

    1. Chriama

      Also: I’m pretty sure there’s no consensus in the scientific community on what causes yawning. It’s been correlated with certain things (sleepiness or lack of oxygen are 2 theories I’ve heard), but there’s no general agreement on the causation. I agree that the in-your-face yawn (as opposed to a yawn smothered behind your hand) oversteps the bounds of typical social ettiquette. However, although false exaggerated yawns have been used to indicate boredom, an interviewer who does that would likely show other signs of disinterest such as a bored expression, rolling their eyes, or apathetic conversation. Given that the exact opposite is true, assume that these are ‘natural’ yawns whose cause is still a mystery to science, and let it go.

      1. Dynamic Beige

        A Yawn is a Silent Scream for Coffee… as seen on posters, t-shirts, mugs and all other kinds of things.

  28. Nobody

    You are definitely taking this too personally. Yawning is generally involuntary, and in my experience, people don’t normally apologize for yawning (unless maybe they’re in the middle of a sentence and have to stop talking to yawn). If people yawn while you’re talking, it would be even more disruptive for them to interrupt you to apologize for yawning. Whatever you do, don’t give in to the temptation to ask if they’re bored with your answers, etc., because THAT would be really rude, and probably a huge turnoff to an interviewer.

  29. YandO

    Please remember that some people don’t realize they are yawning. I don’t know why or how, but I am one of those people.
    I just yawned. I realized I yawned after I’ve already closed my mouth. And the only reason I realized at all is because I am reading about it.

    Of all the thing sin this world to take offense to, this is just not one of them.

  30. JB (not in Houston)

    I agree with the others who say that the yawning itself is not something to take offense at. I do think they should have apologized. That one person who did the big stretch, though? That was straight up rude. I stretch all the time, and I can’t imagine doing a big lean back in my chair kind of stretch during an interview.

  31. Ops Analyst

    Do people really yawn when they’re bored? I get this is a thing people pretend to do when they actively want to indicate that something is boring, but in reality I don’t think I have ever seen someone yawn out of boredom, without it being deliberate. I’ve yawned when I’ve been fully engaged, simply because I was tired, which is why I thought most people yawned.

    On another note, I recently had an interview where one of the people interviewing me sat on his phone the whole time and barely looked up to ask me questions. Now that’s rude.

    1. MsM

      I think the implication is that you wouldn’t be sleepy (and therefore yawning) if whatever you were listening to was sufficient to hold your attention. When of course, people yawn or get sleepy for all kinds of different reasons.

    2. Ellie H

      Me either. I think boredom yawning is a trope, not a real phenomenon. Yawning is actually still very poorly understood.

      1. So Very Anonymous

        This is exactly what I was thinking. Someone says “YAWN” to indicate boredom; it’s definitely not the same thing as actual yawning.

    3. JB (not in Houston)

      I have. It’s not that boredom directly causes yawning. But if I’m sleepy but very engaged in something, I have adrenaline or something keeping me going, and my brain doesn’t seem to notice I’m sleepy. But take away that stimulus, and I immediately get sleepy and yawny. So if I’m sleepy and talking to someone who is not engaging, I will yawn. But sometimes I’ll yawn when I’m talking to someone but *not* bored. That’s because at some point, I just get too tired for any level of engagement to prevent the yawning. So you can’t take me yawning as evidence in and of itself that I’m bored. Yawning + other signs of disengagement probably= bored. Yawning by itself, you can’t know.

    4. Anonsie

      I actually yawn when I’m focusing so I do it a lot when people are presenting or if I’m studying or something like that. It’s like… Quite literally the opposite of boredom for me.

  32. Merry and Bright

    Hmm. Whether interviewers are yawning or laughing with each other it isn’t polite or professional. It is also unnerving for the person in the interview chair. Whether it is reasonable or paranoid, it is unsettling. Wide yawns? Stretching? It started recently? Not unreasonable to wonder.

    I think the advice and comments here are fair. But people vary and I would feel like the OP.

  33. Soupspoon McGee

    Also consider that the yawn with a big stretch could indicate the interviewer was comfortable with you. It’s a good (if very awkward) sign.

    1. JB (not in Houston)

      Eh, I can’t think of it as a good sign. Maybe it doesn’t mean boredom, but it could also mean something else that’s also not good. It could mean that the interviewer is comfortable, but so could taking off his shoes and socks and clipping his toenails. Doesn’t make it ok for the interview (but in that case, doesn’t indicate boredom at least?)

  34. Gobrightbrand

    I have to stop reading this article and comments because it is making me want to yawn. Toodles.

  35. Not Here or There

    I’ve yawned while interviewing people before. It’s never because the people aren’t interesting or I find what they’re saying boring. It’s the process, esp when I’ve been spending all day interviewing. I may even be having a really interesting conversation with the interviewee and boom… the urge hits and, just like a sneeze, I can’t stop it. I always cover my mouth, but I usually just try not to draw attention to it.

  36. Anonsie

    I don’t know if it’s worth noting at all but it sounds like all the interviewers the LW is noting here are people very high up on the food chain in their respective companies. In my experience, the more authority people have the more leeway they get in general with having somewhat bad manners.

  37. Come On Eileen

    I think there is a certain personality type (I have a few of these folks in my life) who are constantly monitoring other people’s emotions and trying to translate what it means to them personally. For example, if I look at my watch, I have a cousin who will almost assuredly say something like “do you have somewhere to be? Am I boring you?” and she doesn’t understand when I say “Uh, no, just wanted to know what time it is.” I think folks on this spectrum need a bit more personal comfort level to not base their own self-worth or self-esteem off social cues that aren’t really social cues.

    Just my $0.02.

    1. nona

      Yep. But really, nobody’s putting that much thought into it when they yawn or look at their watch. OP, they were rude, but I really don’t think it was about you.

  38. Bethh

    I was just in an open forum/interview situation, as one of the interviewers. And I actually had to yawn a few times. I saw them coming though, and stifled them as much as possible. But I wasn’t bored, and I was engaged the whole time. I figured it came on because of the air difference in the room, or it being later in the day, or maybe the fact that normally I’m working at a fast pace all morning and this was actually a bit of a breather for me.
    I certainly wouldn’t take it personally. But it is surprising that people don’t notice and/or care that they are openly yawning.

  39. AnotherFed

    Yawning seems like an odd thing to fixate on. Not covering your mouth is a little rude, but nowhere near the level of sneezing without covering your mouth. If your interviewers were clock-watching and otherwise unengaged, it might be a problem, but yawning could be due to allergies, a late night, too much work, or too much lunch, etc. Assuming it’s aimed at you is like assuming someone’s allergies attacks are aimed at you – meaning, probably not unless you’re doing something pretty egregious.

  40. Lanya

    You would think they would at least have the decorum to cover their mouths!

    Be concerned if people are dozing off during your interview, but a yawn is usually innocent.

  41. Mena

    You are making their bad manners about YOU, which that are not. Someone behaving badly isn’t a reflection of you or your handling of the interview.

  42. Suzanne

    It does seem very rude to me that none of the yawners apologized. Very, very rude. I would have been taken aback by it. Sure, the interviewer may be tired or had 101 other reasons to yawn, but without a quick “Oh, sorry” it sends the message that the yawner is bored. I can almost guarantee that an interviewee who yawned through an interview would be red flagged by the interviewer.

  43. Marzipan

    OP, do you think maybe you’re noticing this because you’re noticing it? (A bit like when you realise that someone you’re talking to is using a word or phrase excessively often, and from then on you can’t not notice it?) So, maybe it’s turning into ALL THE PEOPLE ARE YAWNING ALL THE TIME when actually there’s no more yawning going on than the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance, but it’s just that your yawn-radar is now turned up really high?

    1. DMented Kitty

      I was thinking the same. Maybe OP internalized her research on body language awareness too much that she became hyper-alert to body languages of others, and now it’s acting like a “mirror” to how the person sees her. He’s not leaning forward like I do — oh no, that means he isn’t interested / He’s yawning, and I’m trying not to — oh no, that means I’m boring. Something like that. I’m guilty of that sometimes, but I’m always reminded to stop being *too* self-conscious.

      That said, I agree with not taking this too personally. There are other reasons why people yawn, not just boredom.

  44. bridget

    People yawn for different reasons. Ive actually always been kind of confused by the social implication that a yawn indicates boredom, because I really don’t observe a connection. I yawn when I’m sleepy and when I see others yawn. I never yawn because I’m bored or not listening. I fidget and look out the window and get distracted easily, but I don’t yawn.

    I’d assume that the reaction is not about you unless you are also getting other signals the person is bored (and ones that are generally more accurate predictors of boredom than yawning).

  45. Anonymized for this

    ” I believe the problem is age discrimination, but that’s another subject.”

    OP, I’d try to focus also in changing your mindset here. In December, I was laid off my job (first time in my career, at age 49). I’ll be 50 in a couple of months, and it didn’t even cross my mind to worry that I wouldn’t find a new job because of age. Even being a female in a high-paying, attractive career in tech in which I have peers in their 20s, I had hiring managers contact me to ask me to look at their job postings, and just accepted a new 6-figure job (it took me 4 months because I was waiting for the right position to come along, and I had a good severance package that enabled me to wait; otherwise I could have taken a less than ideal job within a month of the lay off).

    I’m telling you this because yes, we know there is discrimination of all forms out there, but it’s not as bad as you think. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that you’re interviewing with people who are tired, but if you have this sort of thought in the back of your mind (“they’re bored; it’s because of my age” etc.), it may be affecting your ability to remain positive, and hurting your chances of getting an offer because of assumptions that only exist in your own mind…

    1. Not So NewReader

      I can see this. When I walk in with my graying hair there seems to be almost a look of relief on the faces of some people. I am not seeing it as a big minus.

      OP, you sound like you do everything just right. Do you sound relaxed and conversational? It’s probably just me, but you sound like you really worry about interviews. Pretty normal stuff actually. Everyone worries about interviews. Try to worry less about the technical aspects of an interview- such as yawning, being prompt, etc and try to focus more on the people side of the story. I would focus more on being personable than the technical stuff you are talking about here. I don’t know- maybe I am wrong, but it seems like interviewing now is much different than when I was twenty something. It feels more like the interviewer is wanting to know different things, they expect more life experience or professional personality to show or something.

      1. Anonymized for this

        “I can see this. When I walk in with my graying hair there seems to be almost a look of relief on the faces of some people. I am not seeing it as a big minus.”

        Yes, Not So New Reader! I’m experiencing the same thing. There were relief from the team who interviewed me to see how experienced I was (I was told they had interviewed and rejected dozens of candidates because they were too inexperienced and clearly incapable of hitting the ground running — graying hair seemed actually welcome at that point :-).

      2. DMented Kitty

        This, too. I have a tendency to overthink things if I study it too much. It’s like when you notice that hey — your opposite arm swings forward when you put your opposite foot forward — and then you start walking funny. :P

  46. Patty

    I wonder if it’s more of a time of day thing… or if you’re the last of a chain of interviews? Doing the interviews simply isn’t as interesting to them as it is to you..

  47. cereal killer

    Also in the defense of the yawners…when weather changes and high pressure systems move through it blocks up my ears without fail (like I was on an airplane). The best way I have of unblocking them is yawning regularly. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until someone asks if I got any sleep last night.

  48. kobayashi

    There’s something in the OP’s letter that gives me a vague impression of the OP as possibly being a little too formal, rigid, and terse in the interviews (things like ‘bonding’ with a friendly comment, keeping a poker face, being concise and not rambling, etc.). I’m not saying these folks are yawning because their bored (but maybe the OP is coming off as more ho-hum than engaging/lively, and possibly the OP is hyperaware of these behavior, having mentioned she was being aware of body language, giving a strong handshake, etc.) The image I’m getting, just from the letter, of course, is that maybe the OP should loosen up just a little bit. I’ve found my best interviews were when I had a genuine dialogue with the interviewers and relaxed into myself a bit more (which isn’t too say get TOO relaxed or casual, just loosen up a bit and see if that changes anything).

    1. Not So NewReader

      Yes, I agree. I don’t think that age has so much to do with it. Although there is definitely age discrimination out there.

    2. CAinUK

      100% agreed. It seems like OP is trying to “game” establishing rapport – which usually does the opposite. I’ve interviewed folks who are so “on” that it is actually off-putting because they are not relaxed – everything is poised, answers or technically good, but it comes off impersonal and canned. I have to work that much harder to know them beyond their interview prep (that said, I often view my role as a hiring manger as putting THEM at ease so their nerves don’t cloud everything).

      This doesn’t have much to do with the yawning component, but it’s something worth evaluating OP. Maybe relax a bit, and fixate less.

    3. DMented Kitty

      Sometimes being too much “by the book” can get really stressful and can affect the way you behave around people you meet, when all you really need to be in an interview is prepared, professional, and personable.

      It’s like going on a first date with someone you really, really like — you try your best not to f*ck up and be the best you can, but sometimes the act of clumsily spilling food and laughing about it can be the most adorable thing to the other person because it shows your true self (true story, ;D ).

    1. Tami Too

      Interesting….but weird to use in an interview. LOL. Notes: “Candidate had excellent references and computer skills, but did not yawn after I did, so we will pass.”

  49. CoffeeBeanCounter

    At my first job out of college my boss did the BEST one on one training with me. I was still getting use to getting up so early so yawns would sneak up on me. I kept trying as hard I could to stop the yawn from coming or try and hide it the best I could. It was actually painful to try and hide it! I loved the training and I was not bored at all. Likely I soon discovered coffee!

  50. Ops Analyst

    I think you may be over preparing OP. You sound like how I used to be diring interviews. I came prepared with intelligent, dynamic questions, had my answers prepared, researched the company, took copious notes in the process, and maintained a “professional” demeanor that probably seemed more uptight or tense than anctually professional. It wasn’t until I actively worked to change that I started getting further along in the I ter view process.

    Lose the rigid poker face. It’s ok to smile and laugh during an interview. You do not have to maintain such a rigid persona. They aren’t looking for a robot, or someone devoid of personality.

  51. shep

    It wasn’t in an interview, but I worked at a nonprofit briefly, and my boss was a very nice but very overworked gentleman. Not once, but THREE TIMES, he nearly fell asleep while I was very worriedly going over my caseload questions with him. It was super-disconcerting.

    The difference here, though, was that he was very contrite about falling asleep, and had set a precedent for being helpful and understanding. I didn’t take it personally.

    Still. Bro needed to SLEEP instead of working himself into the ground.

  52. Anonymouss

    I feel like the only one here who doesn’t find the situation rude at all.

    Then again, I read ‘cover it’ not as cover their mouths, but as covering the fact that their yawning. Like with those yawns where you try not to open your mouth, but your jaw is still stretching and you just look ridiculous and it doesn’t even cover the urge and you just feel like you still need to yawn anyway.

    I usually find it out of place to even apologize for a yawn unless it was a particularly noisy yawn.

  53. Tami Too

    I wouldn’t take it personally, it could have nothing to do with you. For example, I suffer from migraine headaches. As part of the aura that I experience prior to the onset of the migraine, I experience the uncontrollable need to yawn repeatedly and often. While I always say “excuse me,” I don’t always offer an explanation to those around me, because it is none of their business. It’s not something I can control, and it has nothing to do with the people I am around. It’s purely a medical issue.

  54. That Marketing Chick

    I have to say that if I was interviewing the OP and knew how annoyed/frustrated she was at my yawn…that would give me serious pause about hiring her. It’s just a yawn! Are you easily offended by a sneeze as well?

    As the saying goes, “the issue is never the issue”…there has to be something more going on than just being offended by a yawn. If not, maybe the OP really SHOULD retire in Maui, because this is not something a rational person would have an issue with.

  55. HR Gal

    I wonder if the yawning *could* be seen as a good thing? I know that when I’m stressed, tired, etc, the yawns only come out when I feel relaxed and comfortable. Maybe, just maybe, they were so comfortable with you that subconsciously felt it was okay to yawn…?

    But, if it were me, I’d definitely try to hide it and profusely apologize. I’m sorry this happened to you.

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