I will now discuss these 10 codes of non-verbal communication as they are likely to occur in an interview situation.
The first form of communication between you and someone else is almost always eye contact. Who we look at and for how long indicates our interest and relation to them. However, in an interview situation, the interviewee will have pre-constructed views related to the interviewer. For example, they know that it is vital that they impress the interviewer, so they know that their non-verbal codes and feedback towards the interviewer must indicate approval. As the interviewer and interviewee shake hands, they will make eye contact, and immediately form an impression of each other. This is important, obviously, as the interviewer needs to form an impression of the interviewee in order to decide whether they are the right person for the job.
All first impressions are vital, and if these first few seconds don’t go well, then it could affect the rest of the interview, and also affect whether or not the interviewee gets the job. We show interest in another person when they are speaking by looking at them. If we look away it is considered rude. In conversation, in our culture, the speaker tends to look away while the listener maintains eye contact. At the beginning of their turn, the speaker will look at the listener to establish that they are being attended to, and then will gaze back from time to time in order to gain feedback from the listener. This feedback could signify whether the other person understands you, and agrees or disagrees with the content of your speech. If this unspoken code is broken then this could cause a major barrier in the further communication between the two people.
Posture is the way in which we sit, stand or lie, and is of major importance in an interview, as it is a clear indication of our mood and how confident or relaxed we feel, as the interviewer is far more likely to select an interviewee for the job that seemed more confident and relaxed. An upright posture can show assertiveness and eagerness, but also it can show nervousness, as if the person is stiff because they are anxious. A slumped posture, on the other hand can reveal boredom, tiredness, or a mental or physical feeling of discomfort. In an interview, to lean back on your chair (as the interviewee) looks sloppy and as if you don’t really care. However, to lean forward appears nervous. Therefore, the interviewee should attempt to achieve an upright, interested position, with relaxed shoulders and comfortably crossed legs. A clear indication of nervousness or tension (which is normally what interviewees tend to go through in an interview) is when a person has their arms or legs crossed. However, this could also be an indication of low temperature or that the person is in physical discomfort.
Proxemics is the distance we sit or stand from another person. We all have a so-called “bubble” around us, which increases or decreases in size according to the situation. However, in interviews, this is likely to be pre-arranged (there is usually a chair already waiting for the interviewer and interviewee), so this isn’t likely to be too much of an issue. However, if the interviewee moved their chair far away from the interviewer, then it is likely to have a negative effect on the interviewer, as they will see the person as having poor social skills, whereas this is usually a major aspect of the job.
Orientation is the way in which a person sits or stands in relation to another. It has a lot to do with the direction in which you face your body. Generally, if you face towards someone, you are comfortable with them, whereas turning away from them shows anger, dissatisfaction, fear and discomfort. Most interviewees are likely to feel fear and discomfort (to different degrees, depending on the person), so naturally they would turn their body away from the interviewer, however, this would reveal the way in which they feel to the interviewer, or however the interviewer perceived this, it would be negative. Therefore, in an interview situation, the interviewee should ideally try to orientate him or herself so that they are facing the interviewer. For co-operation and in business situations, a 90-degree angle is most appropriate. Orientation is also to do with touch; however, this would be far too inappropriate in an interview.
Head nods and shakes can be used to accompany or even replace speech. In can be used as extra assurance (positive or negative) when accompanied with speech. For example, if a person said, “I agree”, nodding their head in addition to this speech would double assure the statement. This also works with shakes, too. If a person shakes their head at the same time as saying “no”, it evolves into a more definite no. It can also relate to turn taking in conversation. For example, if the interviewer is talking, and the interviewee wishes to contribute their approval or correspondence with what the interviewer is saying, then they will nod their head, so as to get their point across without rudely interrupting the interviewer.
Facial expression is one of the more universal of the non-verbal codes of communication. Movement of the eyebrows, mouth, nostrils and eye shape in various combinations make up a grammar of expressions that are used to indicate our emotions and to accompany speech so as to add meaning to it. Your face reflects what you are talking about. Facial expression is quite easily faked, as we expect people to be looking at it, so we have lots of practice in deceiving with it. The main form of facial expression in interviews is when it is used to give feedback to the person who is speaking, so the interviewee tries to maintain an interested, enthusiastic and approving facial expression in order to impress the interviewer.
Kinesics are movements of the body which reveal mood, usually stress. Examples of these are tapping of the foot or the finger, stroking of the arm, playing with hands, and shifting from foot to foot is also a very nervous reaction. Very often they are subconscious, however, they are very easy to spot in others. Therefore, the interviewee should attempt to make as little of these as possible, but not to the extent that they are fixed in one position, which is also a sign of stress, and stress is the least wanted emotion by an interviewer.
Gestures are usually more deliberate. They are mainly with the hands and there are three types: Ionic-this is one that looks like what you are describing. These are quite likely to be used in an interview.
Indexical-these have a link with the thing that they are linked to, with what they are in place of. (e.g.-banging your fist on the table with anger, or the more likely one to be make in an interview is floaty movements that suggest you’re trying to explain something, as if drawing it out)
Symbollic-have no link with what they stand for, other than the one given to them by the culture in which they are used. However, I doubt that these would be relevant in an interview.
Gestures give a person more animation and character, and I think that a few simple gestures would improve the interview, and would probable decrease tension, especially if the interviewer conducted them.
Non-verbal aspects of speech can be divided into two codes: prosodic and paradigmatic.
The prosodic codes are to do with the emphasis that is placed on words to give them meaning. We change our stress pattern into a statement, question or an exclamation. This is vital in interviews in order to clarify the response required. For example, if the interviewer said, “It’s hard work you know”, without stress so it appears as a statement, then the interviewee would be prompted to say something like “I know, but I’m capable of managing it”, whereas if the interviewer exclaimed the sentence, they could be defending their job to the interviewee, which would require a different response. Therefore, prosodic codes could be barriers to communication.
Paradigmatic codes present us with information about the speaker. This includes the speed, pitch and tone at which we speak, and also accent and verbal errors (such as hesitancy and stumblings-which would occur through nervousness, and not create a positive impression on the interviewer). So, the interviewee could perhaps figure out the amount of power the interviewer has in the workplace, and whether they are kind towards their employees. This should aid them in how to approach the interviewer in future communication.
Dress and appearance gives people an impression of you before you even begin communicating with them. The way in which you dress gives others information about you, your personality and your mood. You also indicate your culture and whether or not you know what is appropriate in a certain situation. We group people into categories that help us to make snap decisions. For example, if the interview was for a formal place, and the interviewee turned up full of piercings, with bright pink hair, and showing a lot of unnecessary skin then the interviewer would find this inappropriate, and will form a strong opinion of what they are like, and will subconsciously search for evidence to support their judgement in the interview. In other words, it would take a lot more convincing by that person that they are right for the job, than an interviewee who has dressed appropriately for the situation.
As I have mentioned previously, touch would be considered inappropriate in an interview situation. The most touch conducted during the interview would most probably be the shaking of the hands at the beginning and/or end of the interview, so I wouldn’t consider it a major constituent in this particular interaction. However, if in a rare case an interviewee decided to touch the interviewer repeatedly, or vice versa, this would be considered incredibly inappropriate and create an lasting barrier with further communication (however, if this did happen I doubt that there would be any further communication).