The Elements of Verbal and Nonverbal Communication To Focus on During An Interview

Closing the recruitment process correctly means that you preserve your brand and minimze efforts for future roles. Here's how.

“The nonverbal communication is at least as important as the verbal communication.

When I was recruiting for a pretty important role in our company, it was my responsibility to go through the resumes and find a few candidates to put on a short-list. I was very happy to one day receive a resume that looked like it was made in heaven. Everything made sense.

I immediately booked time on the hiring team’s calendars, invited the candidate and felt very good about myself, snagging up this gem. Candidate flies in, invests money and time, and all the members of the hiring team block valuable time.

Candidate sits down, and… nothing. With a resume that looked like pure gold, the candidate wasn’t able to articulate the answers to our questions. Verbal: spot on. Nonverbal: not so much. The magic that seemed to ooze off the paper, fizzled in real life. Obviously, a waste of time for all involved, but moreover, an embarrassment for me personally.”

HR Manager who wishes to remain anonymous

In 1971, Professor Albert Mehrabian published the book Silent Messages. In this book, he discussed the thesis that communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and intonation, and 7% the actual choice of words. That means that 93% of communication is nonverbal and only 7% is verbal communication.

There is quite some discussion about this theory and these numbers. Critics say, because it doesn’t look at the situation and circumstances; it doesn’t assume any biases; it diminishes the message; basically, they say that it is a crude assumption.

Now, we will not discuss how and why this is correct or incorrect. Instead, we will accept the premise that communication is verbal and nonverbal, and we will look at the general, common truth that is within this ‘rule’, and we do that through the eyes of a Corporate Recruiter.

“We are looking for an Account Manager”

Assume, we have a position open, for the role of Account Manager. Your job posting is the best you have ever made. A crucial position for any organization, as it is for ours. Firstly, selling the products of our company. Secondly, explaining why we are better than the competition, being the customers’ focal point in case of any problems. And finally, for our company, the crucial ear to the ground for the rest of the market, competition, prospects. In other words, we absolutely want to do this right and hire the Perfect Candidate.

7% ≠ 100% Information

We start by collecting resumes. This is a crucial step, because this gives us our playing field. No resumes, no candidate.  This is the verbal communication.

When the resume is the only information, the message and words in the resume means you only get the verbal communication. There is no tone of voice, and there is no body language. On the one hand, that helps, because the words are what they are. They give an important piece of the puzzle. So, we sift, sort and select until we have a long list of candidates that have the right education, a relevant background, and skills and experiences that we need for our position. However, we need more than just the words.

We need to know what the candidate is not telling, and why. We need to see if the personality and interpersonal skills meet our requirements. In other words, the candidate needs to tell us his story.

38 + 7% ≠ 100% Information

So, we get more information by talking to the candidate. Historically, we do a phone interview. It is quick, easy and efficient. Nobody has to travel and if others want to join, it’s easy to set up a conference call. We get more information, and can focus on elements of both verbal and the nonverbal communication.

However, it still doesn’t give the full picture. A phone interview does not give you body language and other non-verbal cues. It is too easy to get distracted, miss sentences, words or subtle signs. And it doesn’t force you to sit down. I know of candidates that cannot take any phone call sitting down, and that changes the nature of the talk. Candidates can read their answers from a piece of paper, having help or feedback. In conclusion: there is a lot of information your missing.

Phone interviews hardly make sense this day and age, since it is so easy to do video calls. Why would you plan a phone call and ask your questions, when it is just as easy to conduct a video call and have all the information you need? You know that our tools at AskAway can assist you with this. And now we offer a Free Trial. It has never been easier to try.

55% + 38% + 7% = 100% Information

And there we go. Here we have the full picture. You have the information from the resume and the answers to your questions about particular items on the resume. You see the candidate, so you can pick up on all the important verbal and nonverbal pieces of information.

In addition, you see the level of care, preparation and attention going in the interview. How does the candidate present him- or herself? Important for this position!

A video interview has added benefits. You can use it to turn your long list into a shortlist effectively, because you cut out the expensive, time-consuming part of inviting people for face-to-face meetings. It has happened quite often that the candidate just is not the person I expected to be. The resume doesn’t match the person. What a tremendous waste of time, money and resources to have your complete hiring team sit in front of the candidate. You could have made the cut earlier, from the convenience of your desk.

The Human Touch

AI, Bots and Machine Learning create incredible opportunities for recruiters, HR Managers and Directors alike because they implement a tremendous effectiveness in the recruitment process. However, in my opinion, a human touch in the process remains crucial. It may be in the future, but now, a bot or AI is not able to pick up the subtle nonverbal cues and information as good as humans can.

Completely cutting out the selection step by a recruitment specialist is not realistic, however, we can be smart about the way we incorporate this human step.

By all means, let’s have technology help us achieve results in an effective and efficient way. Leave us your horror stories in the comments, or share your tips and advice in the comments!

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