So you speak well with an excellent command of English. You have printed out a power resume complete with an impressive cover letter. You think you will most likely ace your first job interview. But wait, there’s more. Sure, a well-prepared application letter and resume will help prospective employers notice you, and increase your chances of being called to a job interview. But speech is only half of the interview; the other half is actually unspoken. That is why it is equally important to master non-verbal communication at job interviews.
Non-verbal communication is communicating without the use of words or spoken language, but of observable gestures, facial expressions and positions, as well as unspoken codes of conduct and cultural and environmental conditions that affect your encounter with other people. Here are top three categories of non-verbal communication to place in check at a job interview:
Attire and grooming
Your teachers in college have always reminded you to dress well at a job interview. Remember however that the job interview is not to showcase your wardrobe, but to show how professionally attired you are for the work or business. Business attires have always been simple and conservative.
For men, a well-ironed plain, pale-colored or simple-patterned long-sleeved shirt over neutral-colored trousers is expected. A contrasting tie may be acceptable if you have learned how to knot it properly. A blazer or jacket may be a bit overdressed and out of place in a sweltering tropical country like the Philippines, especially if you are applying for an entry-level position in a company. A clean, polished pair of shoes completes the look. For women, a plain blouse over a solid-colored or checkered skirt or trousers coordinated with a blazer or cardigan, matched with comfortably heeled shoes is always safe. You may also want to be more casually-attired, but make sure you have done your research about your prospective company’s culture.
Mind what you wear, other than your clothes: are you wearing just enough jewelry? How about cologne or perfume? You have to be cautious about reeking with too much scent upon entering the interview room. You just might make the wrong impression by assaulting the interviewer’s nostrils. If you sweat a lot, do not forget to wear deodorant. How do you wear your hair? Remember that the idea is to look neat and well-groomed, not to be Star of Night at your graduation ball. Upon entering the company premises, drop by the restroom to tidy up and have a final check of how you look before proceeding to the interview.
Be careful of what you bring to the interview. You don’t have to bring your backpack and lunch bag with you, as you don’t want to give an impression of going to a camping or a picnic. Perhaps a light envelope to keep your necessary documents would be enough. You will be reminded of these requirements when you get your notice of interview.
Do not forget to bring samples of your work or portfolio. Bring an ID, in case it is required to enter company premises. Bring a reliable pen, but not your whole pen case. The idea is to not appear burdened with unnecessary props while at the interview, so you can relax and be at ease. The sight of you carrying a lot of stuff might make the interviewer uncomfortable too. If you need to bring your cellphone, make sure it is off or in silent mode, and place it in your pocket or bag. Do not give the impression that there is something more urgent for you than this interview.
You might have thought of all the best possible answers to your interview, but sometimes interviewers are keener not with what you say, but how you conduct yourself during the interview process. The interview is also the best occasion for your prospective employer to size up not only your knowledge and skills but also your poise and attitude.
Enter the interview room with confidence, wearing a smile. That will bring positive vibes between you and the interviewer. Do not sit until you are told, and say “thank you” when offered to sit. Sit straight, never slouch nor lean forward. Feel your lower back against the back of the chair. Do not rest your arms on the interviewer’s desk. Instead, put your hands on your lap, and do not fidget. Never take your cellphone out, even just to glance at it, throughout the interview. The interviewer is also measuring your attentiveness and attention span.
Face the interviewer, making eye contact from time to time. Listen actively all the time, and make your replies direct to the point. Do not attempt to impress the interviewer with unnecessary information. You might appear to brag or covering up for any lack in your credentials, but do not hesitate to volunteer or elaborate on information that could boost your chances, especially those pertaining to your internship or on-the-job experiences, as these may not be adequately outlined in your resume. Do not gesture too much as you might appear too nervous or too eager. Ask questions only when necessary. Reserve, however, questions about the compensation plan until the interviewer has given the cue. Such topics are usually brought up when the company is already sure about hiring you. Bringing this up too early in the interview might put you in a bad light.
Do not forget to thank the interviewer after the interview. Gather your things, and leave the room just as confidently as when you entered. Most interviews end up with “we will call you once we have made a decision.” Do not press the issue too much; just smile and nod, without registering any impatience in your face.
The job-interview is your best opportunity to show your prospective employer how you fit the job. It is also the employer’s way of checking out what you did not state in your curriculum vitae or resume. In short, what you do not expressly communicate to them. That is why it is important to master nonverbal communication.