A scientist explains the surprising influence of body language in job interviews


Despite the advancements in assessment science and recruitment technologies, traditional job interviews remain an integral part of the hiring process. However, these interviews often yield unreliable predictions of future performance and are influenced by human bias.

Interviewers cannot resist the impact of first impressions, leading to flawed judgments based on irrelevant signals. For example, body language and nonverbal communication play a significant role in influencing perceptions of job potential, despite their poor correlation with actual job performance.

Within just 30 seconds, people form consequential judgments based on their initial gut feeling, leaving no second chance for a good first impression. This reliance on nonverbal cues can lead to biases in hiring decisions, such as favoring candidates who wear a certain color or exhibit specific nonverbal behaviors.

It is commonly believed that 80% of communication is nonverbal, but this overestimation neglects the need for subtitles in foreign films or interpreters in unfamiliar countries. Nonverbal communication is important, but it is not the sole determinant of effective communication.

While we cannot control how others perceive our nonverbal behavior, we can pay attention to the signals we send and use our knowledge to our advantage. Displaying the right verbal and nonverbal cues can improve our professional self-presentation and communication skills.

In terms of status, appearing overly engaged during an interview may project lower status, whereas being more aloof can convey a powerful and high-status image.

To come across as competent, projecting assertiveness, confidence, and emotional stability can outweigh the actual relationship between cognitive and emotional intelligence. Confidence is often seen as a proxy for competence, particularly for complex technical roles.

Emotions, both conscious and unconscious, can be accurately perceived by others and are linked to future outcomes. Understanding and effectively communicating emotions are crucial aspects of emotional intelligence and can be evaluated in high-stakes situations like job interviews.

Artificial intelligence has shown promise in deciphering nonverbal communication signals with greater accuracy than human raters. By analyzing voice and speech patterns, body language, gestures, and even dress codes, AI algorithms can provide valuable insights into candidate behavior.

Though there are ethical and legal considerations, these advancements in AI offer the potential for improved evaluations of nonverbal communication signals. AI algorithms are not required to be perfect, but rather to outperform the current imperfect human evaluation methods.

In conclusion, while traditional job interviews have limitations due to human bias and flawed reliance on nonverbal cues, advancements in AI can potentially enhance the assessment of nonverbal communication and contribute to more accurate hiring decisions.  

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