Angie Anderson
SPEE 633
Professional Communication
Dr. Daniel Cronn-Mills
Spring 2009
Topic 1: Phase 3 Real Task

Putting your best Nonverbals forward—The long awaited Interview
Any examination of national or international politics will immediately reveal economic issues are among the forefront of concerns. A poor economy results in lost jobs. In the month of January 2009 alone, almost 600,000 jobs were lost for a total of 3.6 million since December 2007 (the start of the recession) (United States Department of Labor, 2009, Jan.). Increased job loss requires increased worker retraining, including interview preparation. The universal important skill that anyone can have for the job interview is effective communication. Furthermore, most communication scholars believe that up to 93% of our communication is conveyed through our nonverbal communication, thus nonverbal communication “becomes the yardstick against which words and intentions are measured” (Fatt, 1998, p. 1). Therefore, the following document includes a proposal for a workshop or workshop series focusing on managing one’s nonverbal communication messages conveyed during the interview and perceiving the nonverbal communication of the interviewer.
Location: Local MN WorkForce Center
Minnesota WorkForce has several offices throughout Minnesota. They provide unemployed Minnesotans with the resources and training needed for reentering the workforce. One of these services includes workshops on various topics. Among some of these topics are: job interviewing strategies, resume help, networking ideas, and similar topics (Minnesota WorkForce Center System, 2009). The only workshop offered by them currently which seems to most resemble a focus on nonverbal communication would be “Dressing for Success,” which is not offered at all sites. Mock interview sessions are offered with feedback time, which may focus on some nonverbal communication. Therefore, there appears to be a need for nonverbal training for the interviewee to manage his or her own nonverbal communication and be cued into the interviewer’s nonverbal communication.
The proposed presentations involve two training sessions, which have a general script with notes for what would be said and done in the presentation. The regular font includes the actual topics and general ideas stated. These are notes and only represent the general ideas covered; the presenter should expand, ask questions, and clarify ideas as necessary. The italic font includes what would be done in the presentation at that point (e.g. presentation notes). This presentation incorporates humor when possible through movie clips. The intention is to create a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere for people, especially if most (if not all) people are feeling quite stressed in their current jobless situation.
Training Session Part 1: Nonverbal Communication Skills for the Interviewee
Start out the training session asking for volunteers to do a skit with a dialogue between two people that has no specifics. [Most are found with communication textbook workbooks, such as in Julia Wood’s introduction class textbook] Set up different related scenarios (such as a person receiving the job, a person not getting the job, etc.). This is meant to illustrate the importance of nonverbal communication.
Now on to how this translates into the importance in an interview… Some researchers believe interviewers make first impressions quickly and continue with the interview to seek information backing up those first impressions (Stewart, Dustin, Darnold & Barrick, 2008); thus, you need to make sure those first impressions are positive initially and throughout the interview through your effective nonverbal communication.
Now discuss all of the following with the group including demonstrations for each. Ask for willing audience members to interact with the instructor to demonstrate. Show how each is done well and done poorly. The instructor should play the role of the interviewer and correct the interviewee volunteer if needed. The instructor should also demonstrate the correct behavior in the interviewee role when needed to demonstrate. The order of some of these nonverbal will be explained at the end through a demonstration with an audience member to help see how this looks all put together generally from start to finish.
The advice below is given for interviews in which one interviewer is present. The instructor should take a moment to explain the importance of treating all interviewers equally (such as shake all of their hands, give equal eye contact, etc.) as it comes up in the presentation.
Start with clip
We know that he is doing a lot wrong with what he says. Focus on what he does nonverbally that would make him ineffective in a real interview. Does he do anything well? The aspects of nonverbal communication listed below can be covered in the order listed, or covered in the order mentioned by the class when discussing the previous clip.
· Chronemics—“fancy word” for time-be sure to arrive 15 minutes early for the interview.
· Posture
o Sit up straight, leaning slightly forward to show interest in the situation.
o Usually you can use the chair as your guide by having the chair support the small of your back. If the chair is a swivel chair or chair that tilts back, do not rock back in the chair, tilt or swivel. The interviewer will only have visions of you messing around with your chair at the job rather than working. [Be sure to have a swivel chair in the room so that you can demonstrate this in the training.]
· Paralanguage—includes the rate, pitch and tone of our voice
o Sound enthusiastic, but not panicked. Do not rush through your material and pause briefly to let important information “sink in.”
o The instructor may show this clip from office space as a funny example of how one needs to control her or his paralanguage. //
Discussion can follow regarding what he did wrong in the interview, specifically how he had a defensive stance from the beginning.
· Proxemics-the space between you and the other person
o Usually the distance between you and the interviewer(s) will be decided by the arrangement of the room, typically with a desk or table between you.
o 5-8 feet between you is the typical public distance in the interview case.
· Smell
o Make sure you shower well before your interview.
o Do not put on excess perfume, or avoid it all together. Workplaces are increasingly creating scent-free environments for people with allergies. It may help to check out the company policy before your interview.
· Dress Appropriately
When announcing this topic, show Erin Brockvich movie trailer found at //
in the background and state that I am sure what they have in mind for a job interview does not include what Brockovich wore to her interviews and jobs. Still this does not mean that we are required wear turtlenecks, scarves, and skirts to our ankles, instead…
o Dress conservatively. Women should avoid skirts more than a few inches above the knee, cleavage-bearing shirts, or midriffs. Remember to rely on your aspects/training for the job, rather than your physical assets. Men avoid wacky ties. Women-subtle makeup; men-no makeup. Take out piercings in excess of one conservative pair of earrings for women and cover up tattoos. provides a 20 point list of items to avoid wearing. [
Share this list as class time allows.]
o A suit may or may not be necessary. Dress appropriately for the specific work situation you have chosen to apply for; understand the company dress code before you go in. However, when in doubt err on dressing up more than less.
o The instructor can show the following clip to demonstrate that every workplace has a different idea of proper workplace attire. Show Jennifer Aniston in “Office Space.” Clip at //
However, I do not suggest you use her form of nonverbal communication with “the finger,” this brings us to gestures…
· Gestures
o Avoid using many large gestures while you speak, especially if you are sitting down.
o Limit gestures and make the small and natural, similar to how most people would use them when talking on the phone.
o Optional: show clip from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” // Then discuss what gestures they use that make them seem awkward in the interview, in addition to the physical contact (high five). This could also be an opportunity for the instructor to explain the importance of maintaining composure throughout the whole interview even if the job is offered.
· Facial Expressions
o Most important nonverbal—smile. Have a natural smile. Real smiles cause the eyes to also “smile” or upturn. A fake smile is easily detected. Smiling should be easy as you have the opportunity to interview for a job you desire—this is a stressful event, yes, but it is a joyful one too.
o When you smile or meet someone the first time we often raise our eyebrows briefly. Once you meet make sure they are relaxed, so you seem friendly.
· Touch
o Optional Clip: Interview at “The Office” //; Discuss how the arm wrestling is not the typical expected handshake.
o The only touch contact that will happen in an interview is the handshake; it should emulate your confidence. “Good handshakes are believed to communicate sociability, friendliness, and dominance, whereas poor handshakes may communicate introversion, shyness, and neuroticism” (Stewart, et. al., 2008, p. 1139). With that said, let’s make sure you have a good handshake…
o A good handshake should be firm, with a strong (though not crushing) complete grip, include vigorous shaking for a moment, along with eye contact (Stewart, et. al., 2008), and a nice, real smile.
· Eye contact.
o Be very cognizant of where you are putting your eyes. If you look down, you look like you lack confidence. It may also seem to the interviewer that you have something to hide or that you have given up on the interview. It is even more important to look up as not to appear like you are physically “checking out” the interviewer.
o If you look at the mouth of the interviewer it may appear that you are confused, as if you trying to read their lips to understand what they are saying (Wood, 2008), which may give the impression that you are confused about the entire job.
o Do not look over her or his shoulder, out the window, out the door, at the clock, etc. (Some political analysts believe President George Bush Sr. lost a second term election in part due to his looking at his watch during the debate). You will appear bored. This is bad because the interviewer is taking time to learn about you, thus show interest.
o You should spend the majority of time looking at the middle triangle of their face. You do not want to give them the “death stare.” [Be sure to demonstrate what this looks like here. For a good example of the “death stare,” see //]. We tend to look away briefly and naturally, so do not stare at the interviewer, instead maintain eye contact.
Finally, remember you are on show the moment you are seen in the office for the interview. Most of what they see and perceive about you is through your nonverbal communication. Assumptions are made about your success on the part of the interviewer from your nonverbal behavior (Weins, Harper, & Matarazzo, 1980). If your nonverbal behaviors are jerky, unnatural, showing overall anxiety and lack of self-control, then the interviewer will likely view you as incompetent for the job. Your words definitely matter. However, if you say, “I am excited to be here today and I thank you for this opportunity,” you need to match the enthusiasm of your words with a smile, a firm handshake, eye contact, and enthusiastic vocal tone If you fail to do so, the words will not be believed, and you will not have the job.
Once all of the demonstrations of each of the separate aspects are complete, then ask the class to demonstrate what the interview would look like nonverbally without words. Allow the class to speak out when they see a “violation” of a nonverbal rule for the interview. Finally wrap up this session with questions, along with welcoming the class to add any aspects of nonverbal in the interview they would like to cover.
Training Session Part 2: Perceiving the nonverbal communication of the interviewer
Show Monty Python interview skit here as a funny opener.
Once clip is over ask them what they would have done in that situation (1 min.). Then state,
This was just a funny skit and should not happen to you thankfully; and if it did you obviously would not want the job and could politely say you are not interested and leave.
Ask: What did we learn from this skit? What did the interviewee try to do well? At this point, hopefully, someone discusses one of the most important keys to nonverbal success, including working to match the nonverbal communication of the interviewer. If no one brings it up, then state the previous.
Overall, you are looking for feedback from the interviewer so you can decide to modify your message. Be aware of the following:
· Response-matching—this is typically an unconscious process in which we closely resemble the behavior of the other person, e.g. similar rates and style of speech, similar gestures or posture (Fatt, 2008). Response matching is not copying the actions of the other; that would be obviously awkward.
· Reinforcement—this includes feedback behavior of approval and disapproval (Fatt, 2008).
o Approval—look for a “yes” head nod motion, leaning forward, smiling, eye contact, pupils dilated slightly, usually a combination of nonverbal, for example, a ‘yes’ head nod’, with eyebrows raised, “pursed” smile, signifies you are on the right track… Interviewer nonverbal communication of approval indicates what you are saying is what the interviewer is looking for; take note and keep that in mind when you answer the following questions.
o Disapproval—look for a slight “no” head nod, leaning back in the chair, pupils more likely to be constricted, yawning, lack of facial expressions-bored look, and one eyebrow raised combined with lack of eye contact. Nonverbal disapproval communication on the part of the interviewer signifies that you should change your tune and talk about a different, positive, specific example related to the question. If the interviewer looks bored or tired, wrap up your answer quickly with the most important example or point you want to make.
o Confusion—lowered brows, scrunched nose, and a wrinkled forehead can signify the interviewer is confused by your answer. At this point, you need to better explain yourself. Be careful, because confusion can sometimes look like boredom. The interviewer can become bored if she or he does not understand what you are saying. You need to carefully think about what you said and decide if the interviewer may be bored or confused.
To recap…Why do we need to study the elements of the interviewer’s nonverbal communication? Do we not already know the meaning of these nonverbal behaviors almost instinctively?
· Even if we do, we need to recognize that the interview situation is unique due to the increased focus on ourselves compared to other life situations. We can lose track of the other people in the room, which can be a big mistake for many reasons:
o Noticing the interviewer’s nonverbal communication allows us to respond to the feedback by adapting our words and actions for the best possible outcomes.
o When the interview is going well, it is easy to falter by answering our questions like a “freight train,” and become “too eager, too enthusiastic, too overbearing, too impressed with how they are doing, and too immersed” (Falt, 2008, p. 6) in ourselves that we forget to notice the interviewer. You want to sell yourself in the interview, but remember that the interview is a communication exchange, so be aware when it is time for you to change what you are saying or complete your thought to give the interviewer the chance to speak. The interviewer is not only observing our nonverbal communication behavior, but assessing our perception of other’s nonverbal behavior. Furthermore, they consciously or subconsciously are looking for your accommodation, which is your adaption of your personal style to the interviewer and the situation (Fatt, 2008). Brief pauses are okay during the interview. [Be sure to demonstrate what a brief pause is here.]
We can take a brief moment to note what the interviewer’s nonverbal feedback reveals regarding their thoughts for about your comments and action.
Nonverbal perceptiveness on the part of the worker is linked to higher job performance satisfaction (Byron, 2007). It is also not enough to perceive and accurately code the nonverbal communication, one must also act on the information, otherwise we can face the same consequences “as those who are unsuccessful at decoding nonverbal cues” (Graham, Unruh, & Jennings, 1991, p. 57).

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