Interview Tips: Nonverbal Communication

All the right verbal answers do not necessarily equal getting hired. It is often so much more important to understand the nonverbal part of the interview because even the best answer to a question can be overshadowed by body language, facial expressions, posture and eye contact.

It has been shown that tone of voice makes up 38 percent of communication, body language and facial expressions constitute 55 percent, while the words spoken only count for 7 percent.

Nonverbal communication matters as soon as you walk in the office door. Hiring managers use nonverbal communication to help them determine if a candidate will be a good cultural fit, whether consciously or otherwise.  

The secret to nonverbal communication is self-awareness. If you want to send the right nonverbal message, you need to first be aware of what you are doing and its impact. Aim to be memorable but not infamous by using some of these nonverbal cues: 

  • Strong eye contact:  Eye contact conveys interest, involvement and emotions so use this to establish nonverbal connections with others. People often attribute trustworthiness to those who speak while maintaining eye contact. Poor eye contact can signify that you are not interested in the position. Of course, too much eye contact can be intimidating and turn the interview into an uncomfortable stare down.
  • Purposeful gestures:  We have all experienced presenters use distracting mannerisms such as constantly tapping their feet, shaking their legs, clicking a pen, playing with their hair, or those out of control hand and arm gestures. These all distract from what you are saying, but if you use them wisely, they offer purposeful gestures can emphasize the spoken word and add meaning.
  • A confident handshake: In business, the handshake is the only appropriate expression of touch, so it is imperative to have a good one.  A “limp fish” handshake (too soft) can signify insecurity, while a “handshake of steel” (too hard) can project arrogance. A handshake lasting way too long creates an uncomfortable impression right off the bat. Keep it short and sweet.
  • Appropriate facial expressions:  By nodding occasionally and maintaining good eye contact, even showing a slight smile, can show that you are paying attention.  Lack of facial expression may indicate a lack of emotion and can be a turnoff for hiring managers.
  • Presence and posture: Consider what is implied by slouching in your chair or crossing your arms and/or legs when someone is speaking to you.  These could be indicators of disinterest, overconfidence, or arrogance.  Send a message of self-assurance, authority, and energy by standing or sitting tall and straight.
  • Be aware: You may have a few subconscious habits that being aware of will be useful so that you can minimize when they occur.  For example, clearing your throat, the overuse of “um” or “uh”, constant sniffing your nose or cracking your knuckles.  These can be distracting.

Never forget that the interview does not end after you have answered the final question.  Be sure to give the interviewer another firm handshake and smile as you leave and to be sure to thank the receptionist or anyone else you spoke to during the interview.

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