Nonverbal Communication

This paper seeks to investigate the effectiveness of non-verbal communication during an interview for any job application. Communication is essentially based on cultures; people do not speak the same way every day since they are influenced by various factors and interactions. When miscommunication happens, people at times look to nonverbal cues to rectify any wrong interpretations. Non-verbal communication is best defined as the cues people give off without the use of words; the process of communicating, giving and receiving through wordless messages. This is usually with the body language, the way we sit, make gestures with our faces, our hands etc. Through these gestures, our audience can tell a lot about us whether we are nervous, confident, scared, happy, and so on. In a spoken setting we tend to have our focus shift on the spoken word rather that our body language. The audience then is taking in both the verbal and the nonverbal communication we are giving off. Movements of the body are determined by the context of the situation (Eapen, 2010).

Messages can be given through touch, our body movements, eye contact and expressions on our faces. Message can also be conversed through external objects like our clothing, how we smell or hairstyle. Some of non-verbal communication includes chronemics, haptics, proxemics, gesture, body language or posture; facial expression and eye contact. Non-verbal cues are important during interviews because they sell us out to the panel present during our interviews. We can be saying one thing while our bodies are conveying a different message. Many people assume that their verbal communication will earn them points when in an interview. In actual reality, verbal communication accounts for about 5% of what the panel seeks to find in a prospective employee. Non-verbal communication takes the highest share of almost 55% while your body language accounts for the rest. Therefore, it’s imperative for any person to ensure they look their best and strive to exude confidence even before they are asked any questions. To be a better communicator in your daily dealings you must take into account your body language. You must be aware of the signals you are sending off, that they are what you really want to communicate. Our body language can easily betray us. When your body conveys exactly what you are saying, you build trust with your given audience. However, when your words say one thing while your body language gives different signals you create mistrust and confusion (Ekman, 1969).

Non-verbal communication can be used to play different roles. Such include; the act of repetition. When you speak your nonverbal cues can repeat whatever message you are giving. This increases your confidence and enables your audience to be convinced that you are sure of what you are talking about. They can be used to contradict a message in that an individual may verbally say that they understand or agree with you but their nonverbal cues state they do not. When in an interview you may be explaining a point to the panel but while they may be nodding in agreement, you may see the hesitation in their demeanour and hence you may want to change your approach on the way you’re selling your point. Nonverbal cues are also used to complement a verbal message. For example, in an office setting when you are commended for doing a great job, a pat on the back will increase the effect of the message. They also substitute for a verbal message, in this case when you are speaking and can see the reaction of your audience can tell you a lot. They can seem captivated by your presentation or may seem bored by you work. Nonverbal are also used to accentuate an underlying message (Andersen, 1998).

For example when the boss is angry, he may bang on the table and this will easily be understood by everyone that he is angry, regardless of whether you know what the problem is. Nonverbal communication mainly communicates emotions we feel as opposed to spoken word where we can easily give false information. Nonverbal cues are powerful and more reliable. Across many high context cultures they place a lot of importance on nonverbal cues. Although they may at times come across as unclear they always have a communicative value and come across as continuous. Nonverbal communication cannot be faked. Although one may be familiar with many skills of nonverbal communication, they are not likely to be effective if you are not confident enough to exude them. Since we cannot control all the signals we give off about what we are thinking, it looks very unnatural the harder we try to (Mehrabian, 2007).

There are many examples of nonverbal communication skills. Intensifying your knowledge of non-verbal communication is the major step in improving your own use and comprehension of interaction of the skills.

First impressions

This is the physical appearance of oneself. Many people are attracted to well-groomed persons as opposed to shabbily dressed persons. During an interview ensure that your clothes are clean and for any jewellery make sure that it is minimal and conservative. Avoid strong perfumes and foul odours like sweat bad breathe, or cigarette smoke. Dress in a fitting suit even where the setting is informal.


This has to do with distance and space between persons engaged in different sorts of interactions. Learn to respect people’s personal space by establishing boundaries


The body posture communicates as well as facial expressions would. A rigid position or one slumping or slouching may not give a confident stance. A forward lean as opposed to a backward lean gives a good and positive feedback. Have an upright sitting position when in an interview, be comfortable and relaxed.


This is the movements especially of the hands when trying to get a message across. Gestures can be specific and others that are ambiguous in nature. Like any other nonverbal cues, gestures cut across cultures and one needs to be careful especially when faced with a new culture that is not their own. For an interview, do not make too many hand movements you may come across as nervous, also do not wring your hands or bite your nails

Facial expressions

Movements of your face especially of your eyes are harder to control and often are the selling out for many people. You may smile but if this does not reach your eyes meaning either this is sarcasm or false laughter. Some of the small face or eye movements can convey quite significant messages, and yet remain unknown to the sender (Mehrabian, 1971). Variations in pupil dilation, which may be interpreted as having various meanings, these can go unnoticed by the speaker.

Eye contact

The duration of eye contact can mean different things to different persons. Too little eye contact may mean that you have something to hide while prolonged contact may show aggressive behaviour to some people. When faced with a panel try to distribute your vision to all present and do not stare. Remember eyes are the window to your soul so even the slightest movement may betray you without your knowledge. Do not make eye contact for more than three seconds.

Direct contact

This may be through the use of a handshake, where the interviewer determines their assessment of someone. Giving a firm handshake as this shows one is confident and secure in him or herself.


We need to understand that our voice does speak to our audience. They convey happiness, sarcasm, sadness; nervousness and so on. Do not speak too fast or take too long to answer a question. Check your tone, the pitch of your voice and so on. Be clear when you speak in order to be heard effectively.

For this paper discussed at length is one of the skills which the use of proxemics. This has to do with space. The use of proxemics provides information concerning the amount of personal space and level of conviction and familiarity that a person has. Proximity is said to separate people and their weakness. Persons who are confident in their stance are known to be at the front and centre, people with weak status tend to hover near exits. In any communication setting, one needs to feel comfortable else there will not be effective communication. It is also worth noting that space between the sender and the receiver of the message influences the way the message is or can be interpreted. The term was coined in 1963 by anthropologist Edward hall. Proxemics is said to be territorial. Some examples of these territories are; Primary territories which only a particular individual has exclusivity to it, e.g. are a house where no one except the owner can enterat free will. Secondary territory has no person with a given right to the particular space, an example is a pew seat in a church where anybody can sit. Public territory is where space is open to anyone for a given period of time e.g., a parking lot space.

Personal territory in the skill of proxemics is divided into four major space categories; intimate, social, personal, and public space. Intimate space is described as a distance of between 6-18 inches which is an area for whispering hugging and touching. The social space is of between 4-12 feet, a distance for interactions among acquaintances, personal space is one of 1.5-4feet for interactions among good friends, public space is one used for speaking. Proxemics when used in a job interview can go a long way in increasing your chances of getting hired. Learn to properly position yourself when in an interview. If you are a female applicant and have a female interviewer, you can sit across or next to them either position is accepted.  A female applicant with a male interviewer, it is recommended that you sit across from them these is put both of you at ease and not seem like you are in a flirtatious manner. If you are a male applicant and have a female interviewer it is recommended that you sit directly across from them. This is because when you sit near them, they female interviewer may feel uncomfortable. If you have a male interviewer it is recommended that you sit adjacent to them and not across from them. This reduces the male aggressive behaviour should you sit across from them as this gives a confrontational position. In a boardroom setting where you can choose your seat, do not pick one at the end of the table, this gives of an air of an interrogative interview (Vrij, 2008).

Proxemics defines in its self-three types of spaces. These include the fixed feature space that includes fixed objects such as walls. For objects that can be varied in terms of their placement, they are in the semi fixed feature space such as chairs that can be moved. Informal space is the space that an individual has which in turn determines the distance that others keep during interactions. Distance between you and your audience may affect the clarity of your message to the receiver. Close proximity to your audience may have both positive and negative response. Closeness maybe interpreted as suggest friendliness or a confidential and personal discussion, on the other hand it may seem threatening and at times even hostile. When we cross cultures we encounter differentideals on proxemics. In North America, people tend to prefer a large amount of space due to the fact that they enjoy vast lands compared to their smaller population (Ferris, 1967).

On the other hand, people from Europe are seen to sit or talk closer to each other since they are used to smaller spaces. When someone is accustomed to interacting at close proximity and they encounter those that are not comfortable, to the first person they may interpret this as coldness or lack of interest. An example is given of a German executive in US who was upset by his visitors who kept moving their chairs to fit their comfort that he had it bolted to the floor. There are various challenges involved with proxemics. Not everyone shares the same proxemics ideal as their counterparts since these vary across cultures. We are territorial by nature and when our space is invaded we tend to get defensive. However when situations cannot be helped and space is invaded for example in a crowded bus or train, we develop coping mechanisms in order to make most out of the situation.

During an interview you need to be attentive to what the interviewer is telling you. From their language you can tell the direction of the interview. They may be engaged in what you are saying they may be evaluating you or disapproving of what you are saying. When you interviewer stands it means the interview is over. There are a number of steps one may undertake in order to ensure they are in good grace with the interviewer. It can be insisted enough that appearance is everything. The first 30seconds can break or make your chances of employment. Be well groomed and neat. Your clothes should appear on the conservative side and not take attention from the product that is you. When you take your sit, sit upright and do not slouch, this shows a sense of security and confidence. Show enthusiasm and an upbeat nature. Smile and be energetic. Speak clearly to be heard so as not to appear timid. This will be a good platform to showcase your interpersonal skills and your communication skills. Be informed about the organization before you go for an interview. This will give you some comfort and you may be able for formulate an answer quickly. Choose your words carefully, and articulate them in a professional manner. Make sure your hands are not sweaty or clammy. Wash and dry your hands before an be rid of bad habits, be aware of them and remember that practice makes perfect. Have mock interviews and tape them then look over it to determine you flaws and do your best to avoid them over time (Wiener, 1967).

There are a number of nonverbal communication tips that can go a long way in enabling us converse effectively. First we should learn to pay close attention to nonverbal signals. In the case of interview be careful of your nonverbal cues. Concentrate on your tone of voice while speaking as this will convey to your audience the sort of person you are. Do not be afraid to ask when you cannot understand nonverbal cues. Also in the same light be prepared to repeat you nonverbal cues if you see that your audience does not understand you clearly. A way to make your speech to be understood more, incorporate signs to add emphasis to the information you seek to put across. When not sure that you have the right signals, look for group of common signals that can be easily understood by the rest of the audience in order to avoid miscommunication. Be aware of the content of your information in order to incorporate the correct cues. A formal setting does not call for numerous nonverbal cues but it means that the speaker must have their cues in check. An informal setting may allow for a myriad of nonverbal cues. It should be known that messages can be misled so be forthright in case a misunderstanding arises (Calero, 2005).


Good communication is the foundation of all successful ventures. Research shows that people communicate more with nonverbal cues than with verbal and written word. Once you understand nonverbal communication it is a powerful tool that will go a long way in ensuring that you can interact with other people and can discern situations easily. As stated earlier, non-verbal communication accounts for a higher  level than verbal communication. With this statistic, it therefore does not matter how well you answer your questions, you may not pass your interview if your nonverbal communication technique is not up to par. Such things as cell phones, iPods, and gum are not welcome in an interview. They do not give off an air of someone who is professional. Be pleasant throughout your interview even as you wait your turn. Do not fiddle with your phone, sit quietly and do not be overbearing.  All these can be read from your body language so be very vigilant. When questioned about any pervious jobs, if a bad experience keep your emotions in check and speak in an even tone. By not being fully aware of your nonverbal cues you may send off the wrong information and cause tension as people involved in the situation try to make sense of the information they have deduced from you. This brings about tension and breaks the bond of trust that had been established. Be vigilant what you do when under pressure and be conscious of it. Being aware goes a long way in getting rid of the bad habits. (L.A. Times CareerBuilder, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2003). We therefore conclude that nonverbal communications are good during an interview as they tell a lot more about the interviewee, than verbal communication would have.

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