During your job interview, most of what is communicated is nonverbal. Some estimates place the amount of nonverbal communication at 90 percent or more. Nonverbal impressions tell the prospective employer something about your professionalism, competence, honesty, and trustworthiness.
It is also known that people pay more attention to nonverbal cues when they don't have much information about the other person. And that is exactly the situation both you and the employer are in at the start of your job interview. While the employer is listening to your verbal message, he/she is also watching for the nonverbal cues that may give you away.
Appearance and Dress The first thing an employer will notice is your appearance and the way you are dressed. As he reaches out to shake your hand, he will notice if you have a body odor or a too heavy scent of cologne or after-shave.
Tone of Voice and Eye Contact As the interview progresses, the employer will listen to the tone of your voice. Is there anger in your voice? Complacency? Enthusiasm? Do you look angry or expressionless? Are you maintaining reasonable eye contact with the interviewer, or do you look away and avoid his/her eyes?
Gestures Gestures that convey involvement, interest, or enthusiasm will be noticed by the interviewer and be considered a plus. But fidgeting with your hands suggests you are nervous. The employer, however, may also interpret it as a sign of deceit, in that your nervous mannerisms reveal you are not telling the truth. If your hand is clenched into a fist, it may be perceived as a sign of repressed anger and an indication of a tendency toward aggression.
Facial Expression If your face conveys anger or sullenness, it will be interpreted as such and reduce your chances for getting the job. A face that is expressionless is normally interpreted in a negative way - as not being interested in the position being interviewed for. Your face should convey interest and enthusiasm.
Body Language Your body language can also convey the depth of your interest in the prospective job. Do you slouch as you sit? That may be interpreted by the employer as an indication that you are detached from the situation and not very interested in the company or the job. Slumped shoulders suggest you have already given up in defeat. Arms folded across your chest may create the impression that you have closed yourself off and are not open to the interviewer.
These are some of the major negative signals, often conveyed unknowingly by a job applicant in an interview. Employers are looking for signs of your true interest and motivation during the job interview. Both your verbal responses and nonverbal behaviors will help them determine how much of what you are telling them is true and what you may be trying to conceal.
SOURCE: Adapted from Caryl and Ron Krannich, Ph.Ds, Job Interview Tips for People With Not-So-Hot Backgrounds (Impact Publications, Manassas Park, VA), pp. 26-29. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.