According to College Journal, “Body language comprises 55 percent of the force of any response, whereas the verbal content only provides 7 percent, and paralanguage, or the intonation -- pauses and sighs given when answering -- represents 38 percent of the emphasis." Those are impressive statistics – and numbers that every job seeker should use to her advantage.
What is nonverbal communication? Simply stated, it is "the act of giving or exchanging information without using any spoken words."
In other words, we silently communicate volumes about ourselves, so it’s extremely important to be mindful of your nonverbal cues – especially in job interviews.
Here are a few tips:
Dress for success. The more conservative the industry, the more conservative the attire. Conversely, if you’re interviewing with, say, an advertising agency, attire that’s too conservative might cost you the job. Do your homework and research the employer ahead of time. Many company websites include photos of their key staff, which is a great way to gauge what employees are wearing. Make sure your clothes are spotless, wrinkle-free and in excellent condition. Scuffed shoes or a worn-out handbag will instantly send the wrong message, as will too many accessories. Leave clanking bracelets, chandelier earrings and body jewelry at home. And don’t overdo your hairstyle or makeup.
Color me hired. Employ the psychology of color by incorporating hues in greens and blues in your wardrobe. Green means “go” and is the color of money. Blue, particularly navy, conveys trust and is the most universally well-liked color. Avoid red as it conveys the message, “Stop!”
Scents and sensibilities. Have you ever met a woman’s perfume before she entered the room? If so, you’ll understand why you should skip scents for the interview. Not only are fragrances distracting, but many people are sensitive to certain perfumes. Do a “scent check” prior to your interview to ensure you’re free from the aromas of cigarettes, nervous perspiration or the garlic chicken salad you had for lunch. Tuck a tin of Altoids in your handbag as a last-minute refresher, but never chew gum.
Happy haptics. Haptics, the study of touching, is an important component of nonverbal communication. Perhaps the most common touch we experience is the handshake. If yours is not up to par, practice with friends until you get it right. Sweaty palms? I recommend a product called Med e Tate – moist towelettes that can be wiped anywhere on the body to nip perspiration in the bud.
Mind your manners. Turn off your cell phone or, better yet, leave it in the car. When called into the interviewer’s office, wait to be seated until s/he invites you to do so. Never place your belongings on the interviewer’s desk as that is their personal space. If another person joins your meeting, stand up to greet them and offer a handshake. Follow up by sending handwritten thank you notes to every person with whom you interviewed.
Body language. Use movement and facial expressions to punctuate your communication. Maintain eye contact, smile, nod, take notes, and lean forward to convey interest and enthusiasm.
Wash your ride. You’d be surprised how many times interviewers will see your car. A messy automobile sends a negative nonverbal message.
Do the unexpected. Help an employee carrying a heavy box or open a door for a staffer on crutches. Don’t be shy about pitching in and communicating that you’re already a part of the team.
Debra Davenport, president of Identity IQ, LLC, a licensed and certified firm that provides career development, image consulting and wellness strategies. Debra was a recent career expert on the “Dr. Phil” show, and she is the former workplace color spokesperson for Panasonic. Debra holds multiple degrees and certifications and serves on the faculties of several universities. She speaks and writes regularly about the image-career-wellness connection. Connect with Debra on Twitter at @debradavenport, and visit www.identity-iq.com for more information.
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