Non-verbal communication accounts for around 60% of all communication. The words that you actually say aren’t the most important aspect; it’s how you say it that counts. An interview situation can make us nervous and affect our use of non-verbal communication so it’s important to be aware of this and put some measures in place to control it.
First impressions count
You may not realise it but the way you dress and groom yourself can communicate certain things about you before you even open your mouth and speak. Dirty hair, an un-ironed shirt and un-polished shoes are likely to give your interviewer the impression that you don’t really care about the job as you haven’t made much effort to look smart. Clean and tidy hair, polished shoes, and clean ironed clothes will give off a much better first impression and show that you’ve taken the interview seriously.
A person’s posture can reflect their emotions, attitudes and intentions. A lot of this can be subconscious but there are certain things that you can control in order to give off the right impression in an interview. Adopt an open posture, i.e. sit facing your interviewer without crossing your arms or legs, and perhaps rest your arms lightly on your lap or the arms of the chair. Crossed arms create a barrier between you and the interviewer and may imply discomfort or disinterest.
This important aspect of non-verbal communication serves three main purposes: to give and receive feedback; to let a communication partner know when it’s their turn to speak; to communicate something about a relationship between people. In an interview situation it’s important to maintain the right balance of eye contact; don’t stare directly at your interviewer but also don’t avoid it completely. Make eye contact to keep your interviewer engaged in what you are saying and use it to signal when you’ve finished speaking.
This includes things such as hand gestures and facial expressions that accompany what we’re saying. In an interview situation try to avoid over-gesticulating as it can distract from what you’re saying, however a small amount of gesticulation can help to illustrate your point. Facial expressions are often subconscious and involuntary but in an interview it’s advisable to smile lots and try to avoid nervous habits such as biting your lip.
This is not what you say but how you say it. For example the intonation on words, the speed at which you speak, the volume and pitch of your voice. It’s understandable that you’ll be nervous in an interview and nerves can affect the speed at which you speak and you may lose control over the pitch and tone of your voice. Try to keep calm and compose your answers in your head before you speak, this can help you to speak slowly and steadily so that the interviewer can keep up with what you’re saying.