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How To Be Successful At Interviews - One Tip Often Overlooked Is To Focus On What's Not Said

May 29, 2008
Depending on which expert you believe, up to 95% of communication is non-verbal.

So if just five per cent represents the words, why do so many interviewees rely on this single aspect to convey what they mean and understand the interviewer?

This article is all about the major part of communication - body language. Up to 60% of what you communicate is conveyed this way - so why don't we use it?

I've recruited for twenty years and I use every trick in the book. I use Neuro Linguistic Programming like the best of them and yes, I spend a lot of time analyzing body language.

In the hands of a willing amateur, a body language book is a dangerous tool - especially when recruitment decisions could be made on a single interpretation. But used prudently, it can help you understand someone's mood or even their true intentions.

If you've ever watched television without the sound, you'd be amazed how easily to pick up on people's moods. It's a subconscious thing and that fact helps the interviewee. You should instinctively know about body language and how to use it to convey a message. I say 'should' as some body language is subtle and although we know instinctively what an action means, our conscious brain dominates and ignores the sign.

Further, our body language reveals our true intentions and often in an interview, we want to disguise these aspects.

So what does it all mean? It means sticking to the obvious body language signs if possible.

Here are a few common examples:

If someone's happy, they tend to smile. Obvious really. They tend to show open palms and will sit in an open manner - nothing is crossed. They will unbutton their jacket for example. So if you want to appear happy, you smile and sit in an open manner. Self-explanatory really.

If someone is confident, they tend to lean forward (leaning towards someone also suggests you like them).

If someone is nervous, they will fidget. They will clear their throat and play with anything in front of them.

If someone is unsure, they tend to pull on an ear lobe.

If someone is lying, they often put their hand in front of their mouth - subconsciously hiding their lie. They will also avoid eye contact.

If someone is being defensive, they will lean away. They will cross arms and legs.

If someone is aggressive, they will clench their fist. They will often grit their teeth. They will typically point with their finger - particularly with jabbing motions. They may chop one hand into the palm of another. If sitting, they often tap a foot or bounce one of their legs (this could also mean they are bored or just irritated).

This isn't a definitive list but it's a useful starting point. I'd recommend every interviewee buys a copy of a body language book and spends some time in a public place, observing behavior. Note facial expressions, body positioning and what people do with their hands. Consider how they handle a pen or a spoon. What does it all tell you about their mood?

Go ahead, I give you permission to use the 95% you've probably dismissed until now.
About the Author
Mark Walton is the author of 20 Ways to Deliver the Perfect Interview, a self-help guide for people looking for a new job. If you want to improve your chances of getting a job offer then go to: http://www.jobhuntingresults.com/Interviews.htm to see how you can ensure you're the one they want.
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