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THE SERVICES INDUSTRY FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE
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Digital communication platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and others have become commonplace tools when interviewing candidates for our open positions. In fact, approximately 90 percent of all positions at the vice president level or below takes place online. This presents a challenge when previously interviewers could read the complete body language of a person, not just the face and occasionally hands.
I’ve always enjoyed reading people, but verbally and visually. The amount of information a candidate provides through open ended questions (ask me sometime about my 9 word question) or through their actions is a wealth of information. Typically candidates are unaware of the amount of information provided without saying a word. We’re talking about non-verbal communication or body language.
In fact, according to retired UCLA professor and researcher Albert Mehrabian, only 7 percent of any message is conveyed through words. The other 93 percent is found in subtle clues like one’s body language and tone of voice.
How you present yourself during interviews can go a long way in whether executive recruiters present you to a client as a viable candidate or not. Most recruiters are highly trained in looking for body language tell-tale signs (also known as “tells” in poker parlance) or red flags that indicate discomfort, nervousness, or stress during key times of an in-person or virtual interview.
Much of this blog is written to the candidate, but it’s intended to be a cheat sheet for the interviewer as well. As many of you know, Vantedge’s success is fueled by the candidate experience so we wanted to give everyone a little to ponder.
In his book “What Every Body Is Saying”, former FBI profiler Joe Navarro, one of the leading experts on nonverbal communication, covers many of the “tells” associated with people who are providing messages in how they move and the actions they take.
For example, it’s best to avoid having a bland, neutral facial expression while on a virtual interview. It’s perceived negatively. Instead, Navarro writes, “what we try to teach people to do on virtual calls is to at least nod an acknowledgment, smile, use your eyebrows to express agreement or surprise, but avoid a neutral face.”
Navarro adds that repeatedly tapping one’s leg, twisting rings on their fingers, constantly playing with their hair are all “self-soothing behaviors” designed to reduce stress. But what message are these movements conveying to the recruiter? And why is the candidate so stressed?
We see time and time again that when faced with a question they are uncomfortable answering honestly or confidently, certain actions like the ones Navarro describes occur; hands constantly straightening a tie, hands touching one’s face or sternum area, and pulling on ears are just a few of the non-verbal clues we’ve encountered.
It’s also interesting when these actions occur. In one case, a candidate for a sales position was extremely comfortable and confident discussing his industry knowledge and how he helped lead his team. But when the questions turned granular, to his quota vs. attained numbers, and several open-ended questions, he became extremely nervous. Another business development candidate was agitated when asked about certain parts of her resume.
These signs all point to the same things: Misrepresentation about your background, or sadly, dishonesty.
In other words, your body language may be exposing a truth you prefer the recruiter not know about. So why bother with the interview? Recruiters know that sometimes, candidates go through the interview process simply to get an offer to leverage with their current employer. They have no intention of taking the position you are discussing.
For those with more honorable intentions, we have some pointers to help them present themselves in a positive light and avoid any questions or suspicions that arise with poor body language.
As Navarro often states, bad people are defined by bad behaviors. That said, having poor body language isn’t a crime, but it can be detrimental to candidates during the interviewing process. Avoiding non-verbal cues that send the wrong message are easy to correct. All it takes is a little self-awareness and confidence to avoid sending the wrong signals.
It’s absolutely worth the effort.
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