There are many misconceptions about the importance of nonverbal communication in job interviews. Some wrongly claim that nonverbal communication is more important than what you say. Our research (and that of other scholars) simply doesn’t bear that out. If someone says the wrong thing – a really negative or bizarre response (as we discussed yesterday), then the interview is over. Nonverbal cues alone are not likely to lose you the job, but they can be the deciding factor if your verbal responses are on target.
Second, there is a belief that with body language, there is some sort of magic recipe for success. You know, smile a lot, or nod your head a lot, and you will get the job. Nonverbal communication is both more subtle and more complex. Success is about managing your body language to present an effective nonverbal style.
So, here is what the research tells us: There are three things that you want to convey nonverbally in a job interview. It’s as easy as P.I.E. [OK, it’s not that easy, you have to practice].
Poise. Research clearly shows that people with poise – what we call “savoir-faire” – come off best in job interviews. They appear confident, comfortable, and in charge of themselves. They are able to control nervous behavior and appear attentive and “ready to take on the world.” This is why it is important to practice interviewing so that you are able to gain this sense of confidence and display that confidence and poise nonverbally.
Interest. It is most important that you nonverbally (and verbally) indicate that you are interested in the job, the company, and the interviewer. No yawning, looking bored, or looking away. Make eye contact [of course not too much eye contact – it’s not a stare-down contest], be attentive, lean forward slightly.
Expressiveness. Demonstrate high, POSITIVE energy [of course, don’t come off as manic], put some positive emotions into your answers. You should present yourself in a positive way, nonverbally, including smiling occasionally (but not too much, and don’t smile inappropriately or at the wrong time [Remember, it’s not that easy]). Definitely no scowling, displays of anger, etc. [even when you are talking about a detested boss or coworker].
Finally, remember that verbal and nonverbal communication go hand-in-hand. You need to be consistent (and on target) both with what you say and how you say it, in order to get that job.