When you’re getting ready for an interview, you know that it’s essential to wear something that’s clean, professional, and reflects your personality. You can say all of the right things in an interview, but if you’re wearing a stained t-shirt and last night’s makeup, it’s unlikely that you’ll move on to the next round. The same concept applies to your nonverbal communication during an interview, too. Meeting every qualification in a job ad means very little if you roll your eyes and scowl throughout your interview.
What’s difficult about nonverbal communication is that it’s often unconscious. When you’re in an argument, you might cross your arms instinctively, or if you’re excited, you might have a smile and difficulty holding still. Most of the time, your nonverbal communication is out of your control unless you are actively aware and paying attention to it. Unfortunately, it’s compelling, so it’s certainly not something you should ignore during an interview.
What is Nonverbal Communication?
Nonverbal communication is when you send a message to someone else through any means other than spoken language. It can include facial expressions, body language, gestures, posture, microexpressions, and more. Even your tone of voice falls under the umbrella of nonverbal communication.
While verbal communication can’t always be understood (usually because of language barriers), nonverbal communication is practically universal. For instance, a toddler who can only string a few words together at a time probably already knows what it looks like when someone is happy versus when they are sad or mad.
Nonverbal Cues in Interviews
It’s estimated that around 55% of communication is nonverbal, 38% is vocal (or tone of voice), and only 7% is spoken word. This information is mind-blowing, especially when considering a high-stakes situation like an interview. It seems impossible that your posture, tone of voice, and facial expressions are more powerful than the words coming out of your mouth, right?
Well, that’s because it’s not entirely accurate. In the case of an interview, your words carry more than 7% of the weight. If you were to go into your meeting well dressed, smiling, and with the perfect body language and then casually dropped a few curse words into the conversation, that probably wouldn’t go over well, either.
Succeed in an interview via nonverbal and verbal communication through your facial expressions reflect what you’re discussing. Also, your body language should be open but professional, and your spoken words should be on-topic and thoughtfully chosen. Basically, in this situation, your nonverbal and verbal communication carry the same amount of weight.
Tips for Making a Good Impression
Understanding the importance of nonverbal communication is just step one. You also have to know how to use your body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures to make a good impression during your interview. Here are some tips to help you out:
Make eye contact and nod when the interviewer is talking to you; this will show them that you’re paying attention and actively listening
Smile (when appropriate, of course)
Fold your hands in your lap or use them to make small gestures; don’t cross your arms or make yourself look too reserved
Sit in a comfortable position, but be conscious of your posture (you don’t need to sit up stick-straight, but don’t slump down, either)
Keep your tone of voice conversational (avoid going monotone) and at a reasonable volume (this can be difficult to control when you’re nervous and or excited)
Keep your body language, facial expression, and tone of voice aligned with what you’re talking about
Pay attention to your interviewer’s nonverbal communication too
Nonverbal communication can be difficult for some people to control and or read to others. If this is the case for you, that’s okay, don’t feel like you need to force something that feels unnatural to you. Instead, ask someone to help you practice for your interview in the days leading up to it and have them provide you with feedback on how you’re presenting yourself so that you can keep it in mind (and possibly make adjustments) when it’s time for your actual interview.
As crucial as nonverbal communication is in an interview, don’t push yourself to master the art of it so much that you’re no longer representing who you are in your interview. Remember, you want to work somewhere that accepts you for who you are, so if you put on a big act during your interview, you might be expected to behave the same way once the job starts, which will get very tiring very quickly. Control your nonverbal communication because you have a fantastic personality and want to let that shine.
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