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Nonverbal Communications

Escape the Pitfalls

by Carole Martin


It begins even before you say your first word in an interview. By the time the interviewer walks toward you, an opinion is already being formed. There you sit waiting to spew out your answers to questions you've prepared for, while you are already being judged by your appearance, posture, smile or nervous look.

A study done at UCLA a few years ago revealed that the impact of a performance was based 7 percent on the words used, 38percent on voice quality and 55 percent on nonverbal communication.

Look back at speakers or teachers you've listened to. Which ones stand out as memorable? The ones who were more animated and entertaining or the ones who just gave out information? This is not to say you have to entertain the interviewer (no jokes, please), but it does mean the conversation should be more interactive. If you say you are excited about the prospect of working for this company but don't show

any enthusiasm, your message will probably fall flat. So smile, gesture once in a while, show some energy and make the experience more pleasurable for both sides.

Nonverbal Pitfalls to Watch For:

1. The handshake: It's your first encounter with the interviewer. The person holds out his hand and receives a limp, damp hand in return -- not a very good beginning. Your handshake should be firm, not bone crushing, and your hand should be dry and warm. Try running cold water on your hands when you first

arrive at the interview site. Run warm water if your hands tend to be cold. The insides of your wrists are especially sensitive to temperature control.

2. Your posture: Stand and sit erect. We're not talking "ramrod" posture, but show some energy and enthusiasm. A slouching posture looks tired and uncaring. Check yourself out in a mirror or on videotape.

3. Eye contact: Look the interviewer in the eye. You don't want to stare, as this shows aggression. Occasionally, and nonchalantly, glance at the interviewer's hand as he is speaking. By constantly looking around the room while you are talking, you convey a lack of confidence or discomfort with what is being discussed.

4. Your hands: Gesturing or talking with your hands is very natural. Getting carried away with hand gestures can be distracting. Also, avoid touching your mouth while talking. Watch yourself in a mirror while talking on the phone. Chances are you are probably using some of the same gestures in an interview.

5. Don’t fidget: There is nothing worse than someone playing with his or her hair, clicking a pen top, tapping a foot or unconsciously touching parts of the body.  Preparing what you have to say is important,

but practicing how you will say it is imperative. The nonverbal message can speak louder than the verbal message you are sending

What You Should Not Ask in the First Rounds of Interviewing

Don't ask about salary, stock options, vacation, holiday schedule or benefits.  Don't ask questions that have already been answered in the interview, just for the sake of asking something.  Don't grill the interviewer. It's OK to ask about the person's background, but only as an interested party, not an interrogator.

Questions You Should Ask in the First Rounds of Interviewing


  • May I see a copy of the job description?
  • Why has the job become available?
  • What qualities are you seeking in the person for this job?
  • What is the next step?
  • When will you make your selection?

Prepare five or six questions before the interview and take them with you. When the time comes for you to ask questions, take out your list. This will show good preparation on your part. This time is a valuable opportunity for you to get the information you need to help you make an informed decision.


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