Be Wary of “Non-Verbal” Communication in Your Interview

In preparing for an interview, practicing non-verbal communication may actually be more important than practicing question responses. Studies show that in interviews, 55% of a candidate’s answer is accounted for by body language, whereas what is actually said counts for a miniscule 7%. The remaining 38% is accounted for by “paralanguage”, the intonation, pauses, and sighs a person gives off when answering a question. As an interviewee, one’s answers might be brilliant, but if they’re punctured by pauses and accompanied by foot tapping or hair twirling, their chances of landing the job can be considerably lower.

“In this competitive market place, you need every edge possible to separate yourself from the pack,” explains Kim Caruso, a Director within The Execu|Search Group’s Human Resources and Office Support recruiting divisions. “Everything, from the way you present yourself (are you dressed appropriately and do you look organized?), to your degree of professionalism (a firm handshake, eye-contact, an upright posture, and enthusiasm while you speak), matters.” In order to communicate a confident and alert persona, the following are all things to consider before going into a job interview:

Physical Space – Be conscious of taking up too little or too much physical space – believe it or not, it can send a non-verbal signal to your interviewer. Women, for example, tend to take up as little space as possible when they’re nervous. Tucking your arms into your chair or crossing your legs may feel comforting, but could cost you the job. Behaviors such as those signal weakness and a lack of confidence. Conversely, men often try to claim space when they are nervous, spreading out their legs and draping their arms over things. Studies show, however, that this behavior is perceived as competitive by male interviewers and aggressive by female interviewers. So be mindful of your body and sit up straight, don’t look apologetic or overly dominant in your body arrangement, and be confident in your movements. This will ensure that you look collected and put together.

Mentality – Get into your interview mentality early by thinking your interview starts before you even meet your interviewer. As you approach your destination, prepare yourself by becoming aware of the persona you’re conveying and walk tall, look confident and approachable, and be polite. You never know if the person you’re passing on the street or in the elevator may be directly related to the position you’re interviewing for. You want to convey that you’re competent, alert, and well-mannered.

Match and Mirror – This is a technique used to match and mirror your interviewer’s body language. Studies have shown that people hire people who are similar to them and that mirroring and matching occurs naturally as rapport builds between interviewer and interviewee. There are subtle ways to match and mirror your interviewer, such as leaning slightly in the direction they are leaning, or matching their smile with one of your own. This body language will subtly imprint in the interviewer’s mind that you are like them, and that you are an engaging and responsive candidate.

The Image You’re Projecting – You want to look put together for your interview. First impressions occur before the interview is even underway, so make sure you look groomed and polished. Additionally, be aware of your facial expressions. You want to look open and prepared, as opposed to closed off, shy, surly, or nervous. Showing up in interview-appropriate clothing and a neat appearance makes a good first impression, as does making good eye contact with your interviewer. Don’t shift your gaze or avert your eyes, which can give the impression that you’re hiding something.

Your Nerves – Understandably, many people are nervous before an interview. However, rapid breathing due to nerves can create a domino effect of unflattering nonverbal actions, such as fidgeting, twitching, sweaty palms, and stumbling for words. Be aware of how well you’re controlling your feelings, and make sure not to betray your emotions through your body language. You don’t want anything to distract from why you would be a great candidate.

So interviewees, keep your body language in check during your interview and you’ll improve your chances of landing the job significantly. Heed our tips and you’ll look the part of a candidate who is relaxed, confident, and sure they are the right fit.