Communicate Positive Nonverbal Messages

Studies of the employment process show that 65-70 percent of a hiring decision may be based on nonverbal communication. If the verbal and nonverbal messages contradict one another, the nonverbal is usually seen as more credible than the verbal one. The nonverbal message is viewed as more honest because it is more difficult to control.

First Impressions

In at least 75 percent of interviews, the basic outcome of the interview is determined during the first few minutes! In those first minutes, very little verbal information has been exchanged.

People going for job interviews already meet the basic qualifications for the job. Employers are now looking for such qualities as honesty, credibility, intelligence, competence, enthusiasm, spontaneity, friendliness, and likability.

In the end employers hire people whom they like and who will interact well on an interpersonal basis with the rest of the staff.

Four Important Nonverbal Behaviors

  1. Sit with a very slight forward lean toward the interviewer.

  2. Make eye contact frequently but don't overdo it.

  3. A moderate amount of smiling will also help reinforce your positive image.

  4. Try to convey interest and enthusiasm through your vocal inflections.

Communicating "Class"

The way you stand, sit, and walk - essentially how you carry yourself - has a bearing on how others perceive you. John Molloy (author of Live for Success) is convinced that the "look" that impresses interviewers the most is the upper middle class carriage - the look of class.

The image of class includes these behaviors:

  • Keep your shoulders back.
  • Keep your head erect.
  • Avoid folding your arms across your chest.
  • Avoid sitting or standing with arms or legs far apart or what could be described as an "open" position.
  • Use gestures that enhance your verbal message.
  • Nod your head affirmatively at appropriate times - but don't overdo it.
  • Project your voice loudly enough to be heard by the interviewer.
  • Articulate clearly - do not mumble.
  • Use pauses for emphasis.
  • Watch your pace - avoid talking too fast or too slowly. Many people talk fast when they are nervous.
  • Know yourself and regulate your pace accordingly.

Changing Your Behavior

To break certain habits and learn new behaviors, you must first be aware of the undesirable behavior you wish to replace as well as the desirable behavior you wish to acquire.

You must also be aware of the undesirable behavior while it is taking place. For this, you may need to enlist the aid of your spouse or good friend. Ask them to "Please observe me and tell me when I am [doing the undesirable behavior or mannerism]." After a while, you will develop a greater awareness of the particular behavior as you are doing it.

Over time, the new behavior will replace the old one and become as natural as the undesirable behavior was.


Listening is a learned skill. Being a good listener takes effort. You can't sit back in your chair and listen passively and listen well. Listening requires active involvement.

If you listen well during your interview, you will have the information needed to help you ask better questions, respond to questions more effectively, and eventually make a decision as to whether this is a job that is really right for you.

Follow these good listening behaviors:

  1. Focus your attention on the interviewer and what he or she is saying.

  2. Look beyond the personal appearance or mannerisms of the interviewer or any irritating words as you listen for content.

  3. Try to listen for information and withhold evaluation of the message until later.

  4. Give positive nonverbal feedback to the interviewer.

If you concentrate on what is being said rather than on how you are doing, you will most likely create a good impression on the interviewer. Being other-directed with your nonverbal communication will make you seem more likable and competent than many other candidates who remain self-concerned and nervous during the interview.

SOURCE: Adapted from Caryl and Ron Krannich, Ph.D.s, Win the Interview, Win the Job (Manassas Park: Impact Publications), pages 114-119. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.