Q: What non-verbal actions in a job applicant are most important in predicting success?
In a 2014 issue of the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, a group of researchers used a new electronic method of recording nonverbal cues in job interviews. They then examined which nonverbal cues most strongly influenced how a person performed in the interview.
The researchers set up a “smart room” with high-definition cameras and a professional microphone system to evaluate the behavior of job applicants.
The smart room was used for actual job interviews. The job interview was an 11-minute structured interview in which candidates discussed their strengths, competencies, experience, and personal histories. Interviews were recorded and evaluated.
Then, the researchers got a small group of 5 experienced job recruiters to evaluate recordings of applicants applying for a job.
The recruiters analyzed the recordings and rated the applicants on hireability on a scale from 0-100.
Nonverbal behavior was recorded both by a team of trained raters and a new automated digital process.
The researchers were looking at six types of behaviors:
- Applicant Audio Back-Channeling – How many times an applicant said “mmm hmm” or “yes” while the recruiter was talking. This is considered a sign of showing approval, interest, or agreement with the recruiter.
- Applicant Average Turn Duration – How long an applicant was able to talk about him/herself when answering a question.
- Applicant Tempo Variation – How a person's speaking rate (fast/medium/slow) tended to shift over the course of an interview.
- Applicant Visual Back-Channeling – How many times an applicant head-nodded while the recruiter was speaking.
- Applicant Smiling – The degree to which an applicant smiled during the interview.
- Applicant Gazing – The degree to which an applicant made eye contact with or looked at the recruiter.
Results showed that nonverbal behavior was related to perceived hireability.The behaviors that were most important were:
- Gazing. This means that making eye contact with and looking at the recruiter is highly important.
- Longer average speaking time. This means that short, unformed, or incomplete answers made a candidate look less hireable.
- Varying tempo more. This means that if an applicant seems stiff or rigid in the way they speak (thus, their speaking tempo stays the same throughout), this makes them seem less hireable. Previous research also shows that if a person knows how to vary their speech tempo depending on what they're talking about, this keeps an audience's attention more.
In other words, non-verbal behaviors do make a difference in crucial social settings such as job interviews.
Frauendorfer, D., Mast, M. S., Nguyen, L., Gatica-Perez, D. (2014). Nonverbal social sensing in action: Unobtrusive recording and extracting of nonverbal behavior in social interactions illustrated with a research example. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 38, 231-245. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10919-014-0173-5