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The Interview Advantage

How to Use Nonverbal Communication to Impress

When interviewing for employment you could be thinking that if you are the candidate with the best answers to interview questions, you'll get the job. In fact, that isn't typically the case.

CollegeJournal reports that, according to some studies, "Body language comprises 55% of the force of any response, whereas the verbal content only provides 7%, and paralanguage, or the intonation -- pauses and sighs given when answering -- represents 38% of the emphasis."

As you can see, nonverbal communication is as important, or even more important than, verbal communication. The evaluation of your nonverbal communication will start as soon as you walk into the company's lobby and continue until the interview is finished.

If your nonverbal communication skills aren't up to par, it won't matter how well you answer the questions.

Nonverbal Communication Matters

If you come to an interview reeking of cigarette smoke or chewing gum, you will already have one strike against you. Too much perfume or not enough deodorant won't help either. Not being dressed appropriately or having scuffed shoes will give you a second strike. Talking on your cell phone or listening to an IPod while waiting to be called for the interview may be your final strike.

What's important, when interviewing, is to appear professional and attentive throughout the interview process. Before you leave for the interview, make sure you are dressed professionally, neatly groomed, your shoes are polished, and you haven't overdone (none is better than too much) the perfume or aftershave. There's more than one hiring manager who won't hire someone they can smell (good or bad) before they meet them face-to-face.

There are things that you should you bring with you to the interview and things that you need to leave at home:

What to Bring to an Interview

  • Portfolio or pad holder with a copy of your resume and a list of references on quality paper
  • Work Samples (if relevant)
  • Notepad, Pen
  • Breath mint (before you enter the building)
  • Women: extra pair of pantyhose (keep in your briefcase or car)

What Not to Bring to an Interview

  • Cell phone
  • iPod
  • Gum
  • Cigarettes
  • Candy
  • Soda or coffee
  • Scuffed shoes, messy and/or not-so-clean clothes

While You Wait

The way you sit in the lobby, the way you greet the receptionist and the interviewer, and the way you wait, will all have an impact on whether you are going to be considered for the job. Be friendly and pleasant, but, not overbearing. If you need to wait, sit quietly (no phone calls) and patiently. Shake hands with the interviewer. Your handshake should be firm - not sticky or wimpy. To avoid sweaty palms, visit the rest room, wash your hands, then run them under cool water prior to the interview. Keep your palms open rather than clenched in a fist and keep a tissue you in your pocket to (surreptitiously) wipe them.

Nonverbal Communication During the Interview


  • Make eye contact with the interviewer for a few seconds at a time.
  • Smile and nod (at appropriate times) when the interviewer is talking, but, don't overdo it. Don't laugh unless the interviewer does first.
  • Be polite and keep an even tone to your speech. Don't be too loud or too quiet.
  • Don't slouch.
  • Do relax and lean forward a little towards the interviewer so you appear interested and engaged.
  • Don't lean back. You will look too casual and relaxed.
  • Keep your feet on the floor and your back against the lower back of the chair.
  • Pay attention, be attentive and interested.
  • Listen.
  • Don't interrupt.
  • Stay calm. Even if you had a bad experience at a previous position or were fired, keep your emotions to yourself and do not show anger or frown.
  • Not sure what to do with your hands? Hold a pen and your notepad or rest an arm on the chair or on your lap, so you look comfortable. Don't let your arms fly around the room when you're making a point.

Your verbal communication is important too. Remember your manners and and thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you. Don't use slang. Speak clearly and definitely.

What's most important, is to remember that the image the interviewer has of you when he first meets you is the one that is going to last. If you're slouchy, sloppy or messy it won't matter how well you answer the interview questions. You are not going to get the job. When practicing for an interview, work on your nonverbal communications as well as your other interviewing skills. It could be what clinches the job offer for you.

Interested in how interviewers evaluate candidates based on nonverbal communication? Take a look at How Employers Use Nonverbal Communication in Hiring. "Awareness of nonverbal communication and the messages job searchers send does influence your evaluation of job candidates and it should."

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