Body Language in Interviews
The following quiz will ask you a variety of questions about your non-verbal communication in interviews. Don't take it too seriously, but it should provide some useful pointers on what to do and what not to do.
1. In a job interview, a student being interviewed in posture A suddenly
moved to posture B.
Give a possible explanation.
RESULTS OF THE QUIZ
10 points or more and you are a body language/NVC wizard!
Don't take this quiz too seriously of course: non-verbal communication is notoriously open to misinterpretation - even by experts. The key point to take from this exercise is that how you act is at least as important in an interview as what you say!
1. The posture with arms and legs crossed (POSTURE B) is called a CLOSED posture. It usually signifies a defensive or negative attitude, but beware of misinterpretation - the person may just be cold or just not have pockets! The other posture with arms and legs uncrossed (POSTURE A) is called an OPEN posture and usually suggests a more relaxed, open attitude.
Give yourself 2 points for answer A.
2. Research by Albert Mehrabian suggested that body language was the most important, followed by how you sound, with what is actually said being the least important! Mehrabian now says that this only applies when a person is talking about their likes and dislikes "unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable". Even so, it's still a salutory lesson that we shoulldn't just focus on a person's words.
Get 2 points for answer C
Researchers at Goldsmith's College found that female students who gave sidelong glances, gazed at the floor, fiddled with their hands, touched their hair, nodded their heads vigorously and kept answers to questions short were more likely to be offered jobs.
Men who faced the interviewer head-on, boasted about their success, didn't nod their heads too much and gave long answers to questions did better.
This was based on 60 students applying for jobs with leading companies. The study hoped to help interviewers to avoid unconscious discrimination due to sexual stereotypes.
3. Although all of these (except perhaps a loud voice) probably do contribute towards a good impression at interview, the three that had a statistically significant correlation were found to be eye contact, smiling, and surprisingly nodding your head! To complicate matters further, some recent research found that head nodding was seen as positive in women, but not in men, whereas too much eye contact was seen as negative in women candidates! (see panel to the right).
Karl Grammer of the University of Vienna found that women show interest in a man by regular eye contact, toying with their hair, tidying their clothes, and regular head nodding. He also found they make the same signals in the first minute of meeting a man whether they like him or not. Such flirting only shows real interest if it continues longer than four minutes. Grammer suggests women use the signals to keep the man's interest until they have decided he is worthwhile getting to know better.
We find people who look directly at us more likeable and more attractive. This is especially true if they are smiling. However staring at the interviewer all the time could be perceived as hostile!
Having a deep voice may also pay benefits at interview. Researchers at two US universities found that voters are more likely to pick candidates with a deeper voice whether the speaker was male or female. They made recordings of both male and female speakers and then altered the pitch of their subjects' voices and found that listeners "voted" more frequently for the "candidate" with the lower voice. Women with lower voices were perceived to be stronger, more trustworthy and competent.
Get 2 points for any of B, D or E
4. When people copy each others posture, it is called postural echo or mirroring. e.g. in a pub, friends will often pick up their drinks at the same time. It occurs subconsciously when people have similar views, the same status, or like each other. Strangers often studiously avoid mirroring each others postures. Paraphrasing what the other person is saying to you is a verbal version of mirroring, and can show that you are listening carefully to the other person.
In research on this an actor played an interviewee and mimicked the posture of the interviewer. Interviewers showed no awareness of this mimicry but rated the interviewer more favourably considering that he thought more like they did and identified with them. However, beware of consciously mirroring interviewers to try to make them like you - most personnel managers will probably know far more about this than you do!
Get 2 points for A
According to research at Harvard Business School striking a "power pose" (an expansive posture with open limbs rather than one with crossed arms and legs) raises testosterone levels by an average of 20% and lowers cortisol (the stress hormone) by a similar amount. THe posture above is one power position, as is standing with hands on hips with legs apart. Smiling and sitting up straight can lead to positive feelings whereas sitting with hunched, bent shoulders and frowning can make you feel unhappy!
5. Position B is called the "throne" position. It reinforces the interviewer's sense of control he/she can see everything that goes on in the room. Old fashioned managers often use this type of arrangement. Also the interviewee's chair is a long way from the desk increasing the formality. Position A with the desk touching the wall allows for a more informal and less dominating encounter. Sitting side on to the door allows for ease of approach. Sometimes the desk may be absent completely. Doctors and lecturers often use this arrangement. However be careful not to read too much into desk positions, the interviewer may have just borrowed the office for the interview and may not be able to influence the arrangement!
Get 2 points for answer B
6. Putting your hand up with five spread fingers is an insult gesture in Greece! Be aware that people from other cultures have different distances they stand apart, loudness of voice, gaze behaviours etc. which can easily be misinterpreted by people of a different culture.
Get 2 points for answer B
Key Points for an interview
- Be prepared to shake hands firmly, but don't break the interviewers wrist. Similarly a "wet fish" (weak) handshake will suggest a weak character.
- Wait to be invited to sit down.
- Try to relax - don’t sit on the edge of your chair and don't lean too far back: sit up reasonably straight and still.
- Don't sit with your arms crossed (see question 1)
- Keep up good eye contact with the interviewer (according to research this apparently is especially important for men) but don't eyeball them all the time!
- Speak clearly but not too fast: a deeper calm voice suggests authority, whereas as excitable high-pitched voice suggests a nervous personality.
- Head nodding to show agreement can help, especially for female candidates.
- Postural echo (mirroring the interviewer's posture) can show empathy and agreement but needs to be done very subtly or it might backfire if the interviewer notices that you are doing this!