What Can a Candidate’s Nonverbal Communication Tell You?

Think of the last great candidate you hired. What swayed you most? Was it the references and the resume, or can you chalk it up to something almost intangible about how she presented herself? Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of the 1971 book Silent Messages, combined the results of two studies on communication and discovered that 55 percent of communication comes from body language and 38 percent comes from tone of voice. So the next time you interview a candidate, look for the nonverbal cues that will tell you far more about that person than words can.

Start at the beginning. Focus on the handshake. A confident, relaxed candidate will give you a Goldilocks handshake: Not too limp or damp (which signifies nervousness) and not too firm or strong (which may signal too much aggression or a false bravado), but just right: firm, sold, and dry. Now see how the person settles in: What sort of posture do they present? You want to see someone sitting up and attentive with good eye contact (engaging, not challenging), alert but not stiff. A slouching or withdrawn candidate may not have great self-esteem or energy, with careless work habits.

Look and listen. What sort of gestures does the candidate make as they talk? Do their motions add to their points, or do they denote nervous habits such as fiddling with hair and clothes, or constantly tapping a foot or playing with a pen? That should signify the person feels uncomfortable — they might not even want to be there. And listen to the tone of voice and speech: Do their words demonstrate intelligence and knowledge of the industry? Do they hesitate or sound shaky as they speak, or do they have measured tones, volume and pacing? Does speech flow naturally or sound stilted or forced? While some of this could be due to nervousness, it’s worth taking note of.

Take a walk. Before leaving, give the candidate a tour of the office. How do they interact with people they meet? Do they treat anybody differently according to status? Do they ask questions of others and seem comfortable speaking and engaging? Do they seem to fit in well with others and look relaxed and/or eager to become part of the company? Look at your current employees’ body language as well: How do they react to the candidate?

While you obviously should take various factors into account when making your hiring choice, consider nonverbal cues as part of the overall package. For help with reading body language and finding your next great hire, reach out to the recruiting experts at PrideStaff Thousand Oaks.