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The Impact of Nonverbal Behavior in the Job Interview

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Abstract

In human resources, employee selection plays a major role. Given that an organization functions only with its members, the selection of a member who contributes the most and best to the productivity is aspired to (Guion & Highhouse, 2006). Thus, the selection has a powerful impact on the company’s outcome, going both ways: as much as a good selection can have a positive impact, a bad selection can have a negative impact on the company.
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Running Head: NONVERBAL BEHAVIOR IN THE JOB INTERVIEW
The Impact of Nonverbal Behavior in the Job Interview
Denise Frauendorfer and Marianne Schmid Mast
University of Neuchatel
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The Impact of Nonverbal Behavior in the Job Interview
Introduction
In human resources, employee selection plays a major role. Given that an organization
functions only with its members, the selection of a member who contributes the most and
best to the productivity is aspired (Guion & Highhouse, 2006). Thus, the selection has a
powerful impact on the company’s outcome, going both ways; as much as a good selection
can have a positive impact, a bad selection can have a negative impact on the company.
While a wide array of different employment selection tools are used such as ability
tests, personality tests, and assessment centers (Gatewood, Feild, & Barrick, 2011), the job
interview is the most frequently used selection tool across countries, jobs, and levels
(McDaniel, Whetzel, Schmidt, & Maurer, 1994; Salgado, Viswesvaran, & Ones, 2001).
Recruiters value the job interview to a large extent because they believe that a better hiring
decision can be made after having met the applicant in person than from evaluating the
applicant’s biographical data or test scores only (Gatewood et al., 2011). Moreover,
research has shown that recruiters tend to trust their first impressions more than objective
tests (Dipboye, 1994). Thus, to get in contact with the applicant and to draw inferences
about him or her based on his or her interpersonal behavior seems to be a desired aspect by
practitioners.
Because the job interview is a dyadic social interaction in which the applicant and the
recruiter normally meet for the first time, the nonverbal cues such as one’s smiling,
nodding, eye contact, body posture (i.e., visual cues) but also voice pitch, speaking rate,
and speaking time (i.e., paralinguistic or vocal cues) play an important role. Both the
applicant and the recruiter try to form a first impression of their interaction partner. In case
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of the applicant’s behavior, the recruiters try to infer different characteristics relevant for
the job such as a specific personality profile, certain skills, job-relevant competences, but
also motivation, values, leadership, and company attraction (Gatewood et al., 2011).
Although this information can be drawn from the verbal behavior, the nonverbal behavior is
often more important (Arvey & Campion, 1982) because useful information expressed
nonverbally can very often not be expressed verbally (Schlenker, 1980 ). For instance, if an
applicant emphasizes in a job interview being very stress resistant while at the same time
nervously fidgeting in the chair, the recruiter might have the impression that this applicant
might not be the right person for a job in which stress resistance is an important
competence.
When using nonverbal behavior to form a first impression, different questions can be
raised such as how the applicant’s nonverbal behavior is linked to the recruiter’s hiring
decision? What information is conveyed by the applicant’s nonverbal behavior? Which
applicant nonverbal cues are used to infer certain characteristics? How accurate are the
inferences based on the nonverbal behavior? And, what is the impact of the recruiter’s
nonverbal behavior on the applicant? We first introduce results concerning the link between
the applicant’s nonverbal behavior and recruiter evaluation and then present the
Brunswikian lens model (1956) based on which we summarize the literature focusing on
the role of the applicant’s (i.e., sender) nonverbal behavior, the recruiter’s (i.e., perceiver)
perception, and the judgment accuracy of the recruiter. In a last section we review literature
on recruiter nonverbal behavior and how it influences the perception and behavior of the
applicant.
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The applicant’s nonverbal behavior and job interview outcomes
It is widely accepted that the first impression of the applicant by the recruiter is not
only based on what the applicant says but also on how the applicant answers the recruiter’s
questions (Imada & Hakel, 1977). In other words, applicants convey a first impression
through their expressed nonverbal behavior during the job interview. For instance, an
applicant who shows a high amount of smiling and uses extensive hand gestures might
reveal the impression of being an extraverted person. This first impression can affect
different outcomes, such as how favorably the applicant is evaluated.
Research shows that there is a positive relation between applicant positive nonverbal
behavior and recruiter evaluation. Positive nonverbal behavior can be defined as
immediacy behavior which elicits proximity and liking in the interaction partner as for
example a high level of eye contact, smiling, confirmative nodding, hand gestures, and
variation in pitch and speaking rate (Guerrero, 2005). Applicants who used more
immediacy behavior (i.e., eye contact, smiling, body orientation toward interviewer, less
personal distance) were perceived as being more suitable for the job, more competent, more
motivated, and more successful than applicants using less immediacy behavior (Imada &
Hakel, 1977). Forbes and Jackson (1980) showed that selected applicants maintained more
direct eye contact, smiled more, and nodded more during the job interview than applicants
who were not selected for the job. Moreover, applicants who maintained a high amount of
eye contact with the recruiter, who showed a high energy level, were affective, modulated
their voice, and spoke fluently during the job interview were more likely to be invited for a
second job interview than applicants revealing less of those nonverbal behaviors
(McGovern & Tinsley, 1978). Parsons and Liden (1984) found that speech patterns such as
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articulation, voice intensity, and pauses predicted recruiter hiring decision, above and
beyond objective information (e.g., school and extracurricular activities). Also, selected
applicants showed more eye contact and more facial expression during the job interview
than non-accepted applicants (Anderson & Shackleton, 1990). Finally, applicants who
showed authentic smiles were evaluated more favorably than applicants with a fake or
neutral smiling behavior (Krumhuber, Manstead, Cosker, Marshall, & Rosin, 2009).
The impact of applicant immediacy nonverbal behavior on job interview outcome has
also been investigated in relation to other factors, such as job or applicant characteristics.
For instance, applicants who avoid eye contact with the recruiter when applying for a low-
status job (blue-collar job) are not evaluated significantly less favorably compared to
applicants gazing regularly at the recruiter. In contrast, applicants who avoid eye contact
with the recruiter are significantly less favorably evaluated (compared to applicants gazing
regularly at the recruiter) when applying for a high-status job (white-collar job) (Tessler &
Sushelsky, 1978). Moreover, applicant smiling behavior had a negative impact on jobs
which are more masculine (e.g., newspaper reporter) and for which the job holder is
expected to smile less (Ruben, Hall, & Schmid Mast, 2012).
In terms of applicant characteristics, applicants high in communication apprehension
who used more nonverbal avoidance behavior (i.e., less talking, less eye contact, less fluent
talking) were less effective in mock job interviews and were perceived as less suitable for
the job than applicants with low levels of communication apprehension (Ayres,
Keereetaweep, Chen, & Edwards, 1998). And, applicant gazing had a reversed effect for
male compared to female applicants (Levine & Feldman, 2002): The more the male
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applicant maintained eye contact with the recruiter the less he was liked, whereas the more
the female applicant gazed at the recruiter the more she was liked.
Applicant nonverbal behavior as an impression management (IM) strategy
Whether nonverbal behavior can be used consciously by applicants to convey a
favorable impression has been debated. While some argue that nonverbal behavior is more
spontaneous, less under control, and thus less conscious than verbal behavior (Peeters &
Lievens, 2006), others argue that even if people are not always fully aware of their
nonverbal behavior, they are still able to regulate it, especially for self-presentation
purposes (Stevens & Kristof, 1995). Research that confirms the former view shows that
even if applicants were told to convey a favorable impression (i.e., using more positive
nonverbal behavior) during the job interview, they did not express more or less nonverbal
behavior than applicants who were told to be as honest as possible (Peeters & Lievens,
2006). Contrary to this, applicants can use their nonverbal behavior as an impression
management (IM) strategy. In this case, they consciously modify their nonverbal behavior
in order to positively impress the recruiter (Steven & Kristof, 1995). Nonverbal IM
typically includes positive nonverbal cues such as applicant smiling, gazing, affirmative
nodding, and gesturing.
In the nonverbal IM literature, applicant nonverbal behavior is mostly measured based
on self-report questionnaires rather than on coding of actual behavior. This approach rests
on the assumption that positive nonverbal behavior is used in a conscious way to convey a
favorable impression. Applicants are asked how much they think they smiled during the job
interview or how often they think they had eye contact with the recruiter (Kristof-Brown,
2000; Stevens & Kristof, 1995; Tsai, Chen, & Chiu, 2005). Using such self-reports of
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applicant nonverbal behavior, the results look very similar to those obtained by more
objective behavioral observation methods: The more the applicant reported to have used
nonverbal IM during the job interview the better he or she was evaluated by the recruiter
(Steven & Kristof, 1995). Also, nonverbal IM had a remarkable impact on the recruiter’s
hiring decision when the job interview was less structured compared to a structured job
interview (Tsai et al., 2005). Finally, nonverbal IM positively influenced perceived
recruiter similarity: the more the applicant expressed positive nonverbal behavior during
the job interview the more he or she was perceived by the recruiter as being similar whereas
nonverbal behavior IM did not increase the perceived qualification of the applicant
(Kristof-Brown, Barrick, & Franke, 2002).
Overall, there are only few studies that did not show an effect between applicant
nonverbal immediacy behavior and a favorable hiring decision (Kristof-Brown et al., 2002;
Sterrett, 1978) and meta-analytical analyses reveal a clear net effect showing that the more
the applicant uses nonverbal immediacy behavior, the better the interview outcome for the
applicant (e.g., better chances of getting hired or of being evaluated positively): rw = .40
(Barrick, Shaffer, & DeGrassi, 2009) and rw = .34 (Frauendorfer & Schmid Mast, 2013b).
How to explain the applicant nonverbal behavior-hiring decision link
Why does the applicant’s nonverbal behavior influence how the applicant is evaluated?
Different explanations are provided by the literature.
First, Forbes and Jackson (1980) suggest that the nonverbal behavior helps the recruiter
to judge the applicant more correctly, as the pre-screening of the applicants might not have
delivered much information about how the applicants differ from each other in terms of
competences, education, or work experience. Thus, specific nonverbal cues might make the
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differences among applicants more salient, especially in a rather homogenous group of
applicants. This is the so-called salience hypothesis. Investigating mentally impaired
individuals, research confirms this salience hypothesis in that a group of mentally impaired
applicants (who were homogenous in their ability to respond and to articulate), their
nonverbal behavior explained a greater portion of the variance in the recruiter’s hiring
decision than in a group of mentally impaired applicants who were heterogeneous (ranging
from people who could not answer questions to people who were responsive) (Sigelman &
Davis, 1978; Sigelman, Elias, & Danker-Brown, 1980). Thus, in a situation of homogenous
applicants, the focus is rather on the nonverbal behavior, because this helps to differentiate
between similar individuals (Edinger & Patterson, 1983).
A second explanation is based on the reinforcement theory, claiming that recruiters
make their decision already at the very beginning of the job interview and reinforce their
first impression of the applicant during the job interview based on the applicant’s behavior
(Webster, 1964). In this case, the nonverbal behavior of the applicant is nothing else than
the response to the recruiter’s reinforcement during the job interview. This means that the
recruiter’s first impression can cause the applicant to behave in a manner that confirms the
recruiter’s impression (behavioral confirmation; Darley & Fazio, 1980; Snyder & Swann,
1978). According to Forbes and Jackson (1980) this second explanation does not
necessarily contradict the first one, because the first impression drawn by the recruiter
could be based on the salient nonverbal behavior of the applicant at the very beginning of
the job interview.
A third explanation considers the immediacy hypothesis claiming that through
nonverbal immediacy behavior (e.g., eye contact, smiling, hand gestures, closer
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
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interpersonal distance), applicants reveal more proximity and perceptual availability which
entails positive affect in the recruiter and therefore leads to a better evaluation (Imada &
Hakel, 1977). Put differently, liking might act as a mediator on the relation between
applicant nonverbal behavior and hiring decision (Edinger & Patterson, 1983). Also the
explanation based on the immediacy hypothesis goes hand in hand with the reinforcement
theory in that the positive affect elicited in the recruiter can result in reinforcement towards
the applicant.
Differences in nonverbal behavior expression
Research has not only shown that the applicant’s nonverbal behavior has a positive
impact on job interview outcomes, but also that the frequency of nonverbal behavior
expression varies according to situation and among individuals. How frequently certain
nonverbal behaviors are exhibited in a job interview depends on different factors, such as
the situation, the applicant personality, the applicant gender, and the applicant race, among
other factors.
Situational factors. Situational factors that are typically considered in the job
interview are the type of job interview (past-behavioral vs. situational) and the degree of
structure in the job interview (structured vs. unstructured). Past-behavioral means that the
recruiter addresses questions to the applicant about specific situations in the past with the
intention to know how the applicant behaved in those situations. In situational job
interviews recruiters ask applicants about possible future situations and how they think they
would behave in those situations (e.g., Campion, Cheraskin, & Stevens, 1994; Janz, 1982;
Motowidlo et al., 1992). Structured job interviews mean that the recruiter addresses
standardized questions to the applicant and evaluates the applicant according to
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standardized criteria. In contrast, unstructured job interviews do not follow any preset
procedure (McDaniel et al., 1994). Investigating the frequency of nonverbal behavior IM in
different types of job interviews, no significant difference was found between past-
behavioral and situational interviews. In both types the same amount of nonverbal
impression management was used (Peeters & Lievens, 2006). However, when investigating
the structure of the job interview, significant differences were found in terms of specific
nonverbal cues, such as applicant self-touch (Goldberg & Rosenthal, 1986). Applicants in
the unstructured condition (chat for a few minutes about no specific topic) revealed more
self-touch (hair, face, arm, and hand) than applicants in the formal job interview condition.
Men showed more face touching and women showed more hair touching. Future research
might want to focus on systematic research to obtain a clearer picture about the effects of
different situations on the use of nonverbal behavior by applicants.
Personality factors. Investigating the relation between applicant’s personality and the
applicant’s nonverbal behavior during the job interview, research shows that more
agreeable applicants express more positive nonverbal behavior during the job interview
(i.e., smiling and maintaining eye contact) (Kristof-Brown et al., 2002), especially when
applicants are told beforehand to evoke a favorable impression (Peeters & Lievens, 2006).
Moreover, high self-monitoring women maintained more eye-contact with the recruiter
than low self-monitoring men and women (Levine & Feldman, 2002). And, high self-
monitoring applicants used more nonverbal behavior during the job interview in general,
than low self-monitoring applicants (Peeters & Lievens, 2006). However, this was only the
case if applicants had specific instructions to use more nonverbal behavior. When there
were no such instructions, applicant self-monitoring was unrelated to applicant nonverbal
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
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behavior (Peeters & Lievens, 2006). So far only little research focused on personality
differences in the context of the applicant’s nonverbal behavior. Especially personality
traits such as extraversion and conscientiousness might be interesting to investigate in the
future, because they have shown to predict future job performance. It might be crucial for
the recruiter to know how highly extraverted and conscientious applicants express those
traits nonverbally.
Gender differences. There are also gender differences concerning the use of nonverbal
cues, such as smiling, gazing, interpersonal touch, interpersonal distance, and vocal
behavior during the job interview. For instance, female applicants smile and nod more than
male applicants (Frauendorfer, Schmid Mast, Nguyen, & Gatica-Perez, 2013b; Van Vianen
& Van Schie, 1995). In one study conducted in our lab, female applicants also provided
more visual back-channeling (i.e., nodding while speaking), spoke faster and louder, and
varied more in their speech loudness than did male applicants. In terms of pitch variation,
results were inconsistent; in one of our studies men revealed higher pitch variation than
women whereas in another study, the reversed effect emerged. For gazing and speaking
time, there seems to be no gender difference (Frauendorfer et al., 2013b; Van Vianen &
Van Schie, 1995). Moreover, male applicants keep a larger interpersonal distance from
(male) recruiters than do female applicants from (female) recruiters (Levine & Feldman,
2002). In sum, results on gender differences are very similar to the ones found in the
general population (Dixon & Foster, 1998; Hall, 1984; Hall & Carter, 2000).
Race differences. In terms of race differences, white applicants maintained more eye
contact with the recruiter of both races than did black applicants. Moreover, black and
white applicants gazed more at the white recruiter than at the black recruiter (Fugita,
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Wexley, & Hillery, 1974). The least amount of eye contact was exchanged when both, the
applicant and the recruiter were African American and the most eye contact was exchanged
when the applicant and the recruiter were European American (Fugita et al., 1974). Thus,
white people use more eye contact in job interviews than do blacks. The latter might have
other nonverbal IM strategies to make a good impression (Pelligrini, Hicks, & Gordon,
1970). However, because research on race diversity and nonverbal behavior in job
interviews is rare, there is a great need of current research focusing on nonverbal behavior
and different ethnicities in the job interview context. Doing so would provide us with a
clear insight into how race affects the use of applicant nonverbal behavior.
Summary of role of the applicant’s nonverbal behavior in the job interview
Applicant nonverbal behavior seems to have a remarkable impact on the job interview
outcome. The more immediacy (or positive) nonverbal behavior the applicant shows during
the job interview, the more positive recruiter evaluations of the applicant are. Moreover,
different explanations of why applicant immediacy nonverbal behavior positively
influences job interview outcome can be found in the literature: the salience hypothesis, the
reinforcement hypothesis, or the immediacy hypothesis. Although these explanations have
different rationales, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They might be considered
as an integrative way of explaining the nonverbal behavior-hiring decision link. Finally,
which nonverbal behavior is expressed depends on different factors, such as the situation,
the personality, the gender, or the race of the applicant. In the next section we will present a
Brunswikian perspective investigating what the applicant’s nonverbal behavior expresses
and what recruiters infer when basing their judgment on the applicant’s nonverbal behavior.
Brunswikian perspective towards encoding and decoding
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So far, several questions remain unanswered, such as what exactly it is that recruiters
infer from nonverbal cues, or which nonverbal cues express applicant characteristics, and
how accurate recruiters are at inferring applicants’ characteristic when basing their
judgment on the applicant’s nonverbal behavior. Before we present the Brunswikian lens
model (1956), it is important to look at which applicant characteristics are normally
inferred by recruiters who try to gain a first impression about applicants.
The most frequently measured constructs in the selection process are applicant
personality traits and cognitive ability (Ng & Sears, 2010; Van Vianen & Van Schie, 1995)
because they have shown to predict later job performance (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Dunn,
Mount, Barrick, & Ones, 1995; Nicholls & Visser, 2010; Schmidt & Hunter, 1998; Tews,
Stafford, & Tracey, 2011). While cognitive ability and conscientiousness predict job
performance in all job categories (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998), extraversion is a valid
predictor for jobs requiring social interactions (Barrick & Mount, 1991). Moreover,
applicant personality traits do not only influence future job performance but also have an
impact on the job interview outcome. For instance, applicants with a high level of
extraversion, openness to experience, and conscientiousness use more social preparation
(e.g., talking to others) before the job interview and are therefore more successful in the job
interview (Caldwell & Burger, 1998). Thus, applicant personality traits are crucial in the
job interview context because they are the most frequently assessed characteristics (besides
general mental ability) and they have shown to predict the job interview outcome and job
performance.
The Brunswikian lens model (1956) posits that target characteristics are expressed
through the target’s nonverbal behavior on which in turn the perceiver bases his or her
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
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judgment. Thus, the nonverbal behavior mediates the relation between the target’s
characteristics and the perceiver’s judgment. Encoding means the relation between the
actual target characteristics and the corresponding expressed nonverbal behavior and
decoding means the relation between the target’s nonverbal behavior and the perceiver’s
judgment. Encoding gives information about how a given target characteristic is expressed
in behavioral cues (i.e., cue validity) whereas the decoding process gives information about
which behavioral cues the perceiver uses for his or her judgment (i.e., cue utilization).
Finally, the relation between the perceiver’s judgment and the target’s characteristic is an
indicator of judgment accuracy. The more cue validity and cue utilization are similar, the
higher the accuracy of the perceiver’s judgment (Ambady, Hallahan, & Rosenthal, 1995;
Gifford, 2011; Sommers, Greeno, & Boag, 1989). Based on the lens model, the following
sections review the literature on cue utilization, cue validity, and judgment accuracy in the
job interview.
Recruiter assessment through applicant nonverbal behavior
On which nonverbal cues does the recruiter base his or her judgment (i.e., cue
utilization according to the Brunswikian lens model)? One study, for instance, has shown
that the more the applicant showed eye contact and was facially expressive, the more he or
she was perceived as being interesting, relaxed, strong, successful, active, mature,
enthusiastic, sensitive, pleasant, dominant, and liked (Anderson & Sheckleton, 1990). And,
applicants showing more postural change were perceived as more enthusiastic and more
applicant head movement was perceived as being more sensitive. Moreover, constructs
such as social skills of an applicant were inferred based on the applicants’ amount of
gesturing, and time talked and applicant’s motivation for the job was based on the
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
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applicant’s smiling, gesturing, and time talked (Gifford, Ng, & Wilkinson, 1985). The more
applicants used these nonverbal cues the more they were perceived as being socially skilled
and motivated. Also, a high amount of applicant eye contact predicted perceived
competence and personal strength whereas more positive facial expressions predicted
perceived liking and motivation (Anderson, 1991). Finally, in one of the studies conducted
in our lab, applicant extraversion was inferred based on numerous applicant vocal cues
(i.e., more applicant speaking time, less short utterances - such as “mmhh”, “ah” - less
speaking turns, and a higher speaking rate), openness was inferred through more speaking
time, neuroticism was negatively related to speaking time and positively related to number
of turns during the job interview, agreeableness was inferred based on visual cues (i.e.,
more smiling and gazing behavior), and vocal cues (i.e., higher speaking rate, higher
variation in speaking rate and more speaking fluency), and conscientiousness was
positively related to more nodding behavior and higher speaking rate. Intelligence was
inferred based on more nodding, speaking time, a higher speaking rate, less short utterances
(i.e., “mmhh”, “ah”), and less turns. (Frauendorfer et al., 2013b).
Investigating composites of nonverbal cues, DeGroot and Gooty (2009) found that
perceived applicant conscientiousness and openness to experience were positively related to
a composite of applicant visual cues (i.e., overall index of physical attractiveness, amount
of smiling, gazing at the recruiter, hand movement, and body movement towards the
recruiter). And, perceived applicant extraversion was positively related to a composite of
applicant vocal cues (i.e., overall index of pitch, pitch variability, speech rate, pauses and
amplitude variability). Moreover, perceived applicant conscientiousness, openness to
experience, and extraversion mediated the positive relation between applicant nonverbal
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
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behavior (i.e., visual and vocal cues) and the job interview outcome. The more the applicant
revealed vocal and visual cues the more he or she was perceived as being conscientious,
open, and extraverted which in turn lead to a more favorable evaluation (DeGroot & Gooty,
2009). Thus, personality traits are not only inferred based on single applicant nonverbal
cues but also based on composites of different nonverbal cues.
Table 1 provides an overview of studies investigating nonverbal cues upon which
diverse applicant personality traits and characteristics are assessed. As can be seen,
applicant eye contact and facial expressiveness are used to assess most applicant
characteristics (e.g., success, dominance, personal strength, likability). Interestingly,
characteristics which are similar to each other such as intelligence and conscientiousness
are assessed based on the same nonverbal cues, as for instance, applicant nodding and
speech rate. Moreover, extraversion and neuroticism are assessed mostly based on vocal
nonverbal behavior, whereas conscientiousness is mostly assessed via visual nonverbal
cues (except for speaking rate). And, when inferring applicant agreeableness, both visual
and vocal nonverbal behavior is used. Finally, openness seems to be least often assessed by
applicant nonverbal behavior.
Applicant traits and skills expressed in nonverbal behavior
Which applicant nonverbal cues convey the applicant’s personality traits and skills
during a job interview? To date, there has been little research conducted answering this
question. Because the illustration of cue validity in job interviews is highly relevant for the
present review, we will briefly summarize research conducted in non-job interview
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
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situations. We focus on so called zero-acquaintance situations because in the job interview,
typically, the recruiter meets the applicant for the first time.
One study, for instance, shows that extraversion is expressed by a powerful voice, a
friendly expression, smiling, and head movements, agreeableness is indicated by a high
voice, friendly expression, less frequent hand and head movements, and neuroticism is
expressed via a powerful voice (Borkenau & Liebler, 1992). Another study reports
extraversion being correlated with a friendly expression, smiling, and a powerful voice,
conscientiousness with a powerful voice, neuroticism with a less friendly expression and a
weak voice, and openness and intelligence with a low voice (Borkenau & Liebler, 1995). In
yet another study, intelligence was mostly expressed through less fidgeting behavior and
more eye contact with the interaction partner (Murphy, Hall, & Colvin, 2003).
Research on cue validity in the job interview is scarce. Using the Brunswikian lens
model approach, Gifford, Ng, and Wilkinson (1985) found that applicant social skills were
positively related to gestures and time talked during the job interview. Moreover, applicant
motivation was revealed through trunk recline (Gifford et al., 1985). Based on two studies
conducted in our lab, a high level of applicant extraversion was encoded by more speaking
time, higher speaking rate, and more speaking rate variation, a high level of applicant
openness was revealed by more audio back-channeling (i.e., short utterances while recruiter
is speaking) and a louder voice, a higher level of applicant neuroticism was shown by less
speaking time and higher pitch, a higher level of applicant agreeableness is revealed
through more audio back-channeling and more smiling, and a higher level of applicant
conscientiousness was encoded by a higher amount of speaking time and more eye contact
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
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with the recruiter (Frauendorfer et al., 2013b). Finally, applicant’s intelligence was revealed
through less speaking time.
The right side of Table 1 provides an overview of studies investigating the nonverbal
behavior that is indicative of actual applicant characteristics. As can be seen, extraversion is
mostly expressed through vocal nonverbal behavior. And, constructs similar to each other
such as intelligence and conscientiousness are expressed through the same nonverbal cues
(i.e., speaking time).
Conclusions have to be drawn carefully because there is little research so far
investigating the link between actual applicant personality traits and expressed applicant
nonverbal behavior. Moreover, Gifford (2006) argues that the encoding process faces
different complexities. For instance, not all nonverbal behaviors might be relevant in all
situations. That is, dominant nonverbal behavior might be less relevant in job interviews for
a position in accounting than for a position in management. Also, the encoding might
depend on the interaction partner, as the target might not encode the same nonverbal cues
facing different interaction partners. There might be differences in encoding, depending on
how the interaction partner behaves, for instance (e.g., Kanki, 1985; Kenny, 1994). We will
indeed show later in this chapter, that the recruiter’s nonverbal behavior can affect how the
applicant behaves nonverbally as well as the outcome of the job interview for the applicant.
The relation between nonverbal behavior and personality can also vary between
different combinations of traits, for instance, a person who is sociable and shy reveals
different nonverbal behaviors than somebody who is sociable but not shy. Certain
personality traits might also be encoded by a combination of different nonverbal behaviors
(e.g., looking at the interaction partner while speaking) than by one specific nonverbal cue
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
19
alone. Encoding might also differ between males and females with a given personality trait
encoded by one nonverbal behavior for one sex but not holding up for the other. Finally,
personality encoding might differ between cultures. Thus, the lens model approach is
affected by different factors that can influence the validity of the inferences drawn. This
might be a reason for the fact that it is not yet clear whether the nonverbal behavior
explains variance above and beyond applicant competences and verbal content or whether it
lowers the validity of the hiring decision (Harris, 1989).
When comparing cue validity and cue utilization in job interviews, it clearly emerges
(based on Table 1) that extraversion and neuroticism are assessed based on valid vocal
nonverbal cues. Applicant agreeableness, however, is inferred from applicant eye contact,
smiling, speaking rate, speaking rate variation, and speaking fluency whereas agreeableness
is actually expressed by applicant smiling only. Openness is inferred based on visual and
vocal behavior, whereas it is actually expressed through audio back-channeling only. Given
this, the question can be asked how accurate recruiters are when inferring applicant
characteristics. For many personality characteristics, they seem to use the “wrong”,
meaning non-diagnostic cues.
Accuracy of recruiter inferences
There is evidence that recruiters perform quite well when assessing applicants based on
only short excerpts of a job interview. For instance, Blackman (2002a) found that
participants in the role of a recruiter are accurate at assessing the applicant’s personality
traits after a mock job interview. Also, recruiters were accurate at assessing applicants’
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
20
personality traits based on 30-min job interviews (Barrick, Patton, & Haugland, 2000).
And, Gifford et al., (1985) showed that socials skills are accurately assessed by recruiters
after having watched a videotape of a job interview.
Even being provided with only a short glimpse of the applicant behavior, recruiters are
able to accurately assess personality traits: Judges predicted applicant personality traits
based on 10-sec (Prickett, Gada-Jain, & Bernieri, 2000) and 2-min slices of a mock job
interview (Schmid Mast, Bangerter, Bulliard, & Aerni, 2011). Moreover, we showed that
recruiters were able to correctly infer the applicant’s future job performance as well as their
personality traits, after having watched a 40-sec thin-slice of an applicant answering two
job interview questions (Frauendorfer & Schmid Mast, 2013a). Interestingly, the first
impression might not become more accurate when the thin-slice behavior is extended.
Research outside the context of the job interview suggests that there is no significant
difference in judgment accuracy when the judgment is based on 30s or 5 min excerpts
(Ambady & Rosenthal, 1992, 1993; Murphy, 2005).
Research on situational (e.g., job interview structure) and personal (e.g., years of
experience of the recruiter) factors influencing judgment accuracy has shown that
personality is more accurately assessed in face-to-face job interviews than in telephone
interviews, in which no visual nonverbal behavior is available (Blackman, 2002a). The
author argues that more behavioral information is available in the face-to face interview,
which results in higher accuracy judgment. Moreover, personality judgment was more
accurate in unstructured compared to structured job interviews (Blackman, 2002b). This
relation was mediated by the amount of applicant talking during the job interview. Thus,
the unstructured job interview might put the applicant more at ease, which increases the
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
21
quantity of disclosed behavior (speaking time) and this in turn makes personality judgments
about the applicant more accurate. Interestingly, we found that additional information, such
as a photograph on an applicant’s resume does not impact assessment accuracy. Personality
traits and intelligence of the applicant were assessed significantly accurately, regardless of
whether the applicant’s resume contained a photograph or not (Schmid Mast, Frauendorfer,
& Sutter, 2013). And, recruiter experience was unrelated to personality judgment accuracy
(Frauendorfer & Schmid Mast, 2013a; Schmid Mast et al., 2011).
Applicant nonverbal behavior does not only provide the recruiter with information
about the applicant’s personality traits or intelligence, but can also tell whether the
applicant uses deceptive IM strategies. Especially the nonverbal behavior (compared to the
verbal behavior) is indicative of whether the applicant is dishonest or not (DePaulo, 1992).
Deceptive IM strategies are known to be used by applicants in order to polish their
competency profile (Gilmore & Ferris, 1989; Levashina & Campion, 2007). This dishonest
strategy might decrease job interview validity (Delery & Kacmar, 1998; Gilmore, Stevens,
Harrell-Cook, & Ferris, 1999; Levashina & Campion, 2006; Marcus, 2006). In other words,
the recruiter might miss a highly qualified applicant while selecting a less qualified
applicant who used deceptive IM. Research so far has shown that recruiters are able to
correctly detect lies and that they are better than lay people (Roulin, Bangerter, &
Levashina, in press; Schmid Mast et al., 2011), however, their level of detecting honest
answers is higher than their level of detecting dishonest answers (Roulin et al., in press).
In sum, recruiters are quite good at correctly assessing applicant’s personality and at
detecting deceptive answers based on the applicant’s nonverbal behavior. Situational
factors such as the structure and the type of the job interview have a remarkable impact on
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
22
both, accurate personality judgment and lie detection. The role of the personal factors
regarding the recruiter such as the years of experience show an unclear picture with respect
to accuracy in personality judgment and lie detection.
Recruiter nonverbal behavior
The recruiter’s behavior is a crucial factor in the job interview as it is one of the main
reasons for the applicant to accept a job offer (Glueck, 1973). The better the general
impression the applicant has of the recruiter, the more favorably the company is perceived
by the applicant and therefore the more likely the applicant is to accept the job. Moreover,
the recruiter’s nonverbal (and verbal) behavior is constantly interpreted by the applicant to
obtain signs regarding the chances to obtain the job (Connerley & Rynes, 1997; Rynes &
Miller, 1983). This can be explained by the fact that applicants often have only little
information about the job offer and they use the recruiter’s behavior as a signal to know
more about the employment characteristics. Indeed, it is shown that recruiter (nonverbal)
behavior only has an impact on company attraction when the applicant has little
information about the job and the company (Powell, 1984; Rynes & Miller, 1983).
Moreover, the more the recruiter shows nonverbal behavior such as maintaining eye contact
and smiling, the better the impression the applicant forms about the recruiter and the job
(Gilmore & Ferris, 1989; Keenan & Wedderburn, 1975; Turban, Forret, & Hendrickson,
1998). And, the more nonverbally friendly the recruiter behaves during the job interview,
the more the applicant makes positive inferences about the organization (Goltz &
Giannantonio, 1995). Recruiter listening skills most likely conveyed through nonverbal
behavior (e.g., smiling, nodding, and facial expression) - had a positive impact on the
applicant’s willingness to accept the job offer (Harn & Thornton, 1985). Also, the
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
23
recruiter’s nonverbal behavior affects the applicant’s evaluation of the recruiter and the
applicant’s nonverbal behavior. The more the recruiter interrupted the applicant during the
job interview, the less the recruiter was perceived as being an empathic listener by the
applicant (McComb & Jablin, 1984). And, interviewees rated interviewers as least
attractive, gave the shortest answers, and were sitting furthest away from the interviewer
when the interviewer did not maintain eye contact (Kleinke, Staneski, & Berger, 1975).
Recruiter nonverbal behavior does not only have an impact on the applicant’s
perception but also on how the applicant is perceived by strangers. For instance, outside
observers perceived the applicant as liking the recruiter more when the recruiter shook the
applicant’s hand at the beginning of the job interview (Staneski, Kleinke, & Meeker, 1977).
And, the more the recruiter showed nonverbal approval behavior (i.e., smiling, eye contact,
and gesturing) the more the applicant was rated (by neutral observers) as being comfortable
and as having conveyed a better impression (Keenan, 1976; Keenan & Wedderburn, 1975;
Washburn & Hakel, 1973). Thus, there are also inferences made about the applicant, based
on the recruiter’s behavior only.
Research investigating moderators that influence the relation between recruiter
nonverbal behavior and applicant behavior shows that recruiter nonverbal behavior (cold
vs. warm) had a more pronounced impact on applicants with low self-esteem than it had on
applicants with high self-esteem (Liden, Martin, & Parsons, 1993). Low self-esteem
applicants performed significantly better (based on verbal and nonverbal behavior) when
the recruiter showed warm nonverbal behavior compared to a recruiter showing cold
nonverbal behavior, whereas for high self-esteem applicant the recruiter behavior (cold vs.
warm) did not influence the applicant’s performance. In sum, recruiter nonverbal behavior
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
24
has a remarkable impact on the applicant perception about the recruiter and the company as
well as on the applicant behavior.
Implicit stereotypes and the self-fulfilling prophecy
Often, recruiter nonverbal behavior is elicited by (gender or racial) stereotypes
recruiters might harbor. This in turn can influence the applicant’s performance during the
job interview (Anderson & Shackleton, 1990; Word, Zanna, & Cooper, 1974). For instance,
European American interviewers revealed less immediacy behavior (in terms of physical
distance, forward lean, eye contact, and shoulder orientation), more speech errors, and
spoke less when facing a black applicant compared to when facing a white applicant (Word
et al., 1974). This recruiter behavior in turn had a negative impact on the applicant’s
behavior, as a subsequent study of the same authors showed. Less recruiter immediacy
behavior, more recruiter speech errors, and less recruiter speaking time decreased
applicants job interview outcomes, whereas applicants interviewed by a recruiter with
nonverbal approval behavior (i.e., smiling, head nodding, and eye contact) performed better
in the job interview. In this study both applicants and interviewers were white (Keenan,
1976; Word et al., 1974). This is in line with the behavioral confirmation theory claiming
that a perceiver’s beliefs (e.g., recruiter) can cause the target (e.g., applicant) to behave in a
manner that confirms the perceiver’s beliefs (i.e., self-fulfilling prophecy; Darley & Fazio,
1980; Snyder & Swann, 1978) and this relation tends to be mediated by recruiter nonverbal
behavior. In the same vein, research shows that the more a male recruiter possessed an
implicit gender bias, the less well a female applicant performed in a job interview (Latu,
Schmid Mast, & Stewart, 2013). The mechanism through which this effect happens is most
likely linked to the recruiter emitting subtle nonverbal cues that convey expectations of
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
25
incompetence to female applicants who then confirm these expectations maybe also on an
implicit level. In the aforementioned study, male recruiters tended to communicate their
implicit gender stereotypes through their interruption behavior. The more the recruiter
harbors implicit gender stereotypes the more he tended to interrupt the female applicant,
which in turn led to a lower applicant job interview outcome (Latu et al., 2013). And,
sexual harassment behavior of the recruiter (i.e., showing flirting behavior) influenced
female applicants, as they spoke less fluently, gave lower quality answers, and asked fewer
job relevant questions than when the recruiter did not show sexual harassment behavior
(Woodzicka & LaFrance, 2005).
In sum, recruiter implicit stereotypes towards the applicant seem to be transmitted
through recruiter nonverbal behavior, which in turn can decrease the applicant’s
performance during the job interview. In other words, recruiter nonverbal behavior can be
responsible for the subtle transfer of recruiter attitudes towards the applicant.
Summary
Research shows a clear link between applicant nonverbal behavior and recruiter hiring
decision. In particular, immediacy nonverbal behavior, such as a high amount of applicant
smiling, nodding, eye contact, hand gestures, and pitch variation are positively related to
recruiter evaluation. While one line of research has focused on nonverbal behavior
measured based on objective observations (e.g., Anderson & Shackleton, 1990; Forbes &
Jackson, 1980; Fugita et al., 1974), another line of research assessed nonverbal behavior
based on self-reports which reflects the subjective perception of the applicant to what
extent he or she expressed certain nonverbal behaviors during the job interview (Kristof et
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
26
al., 2002). Both methods reveal a positive link between applicant nonverbal immediacy
behavior and recruiter hiring decision.
The literature has also evidenced factors influencing the extent to which different
nonverbal behaviors are expressed in the job interview. These factors include the situation,
the personality, the gender, and the race of the applicant. Depending on these factors, one
might use more or less nonverbal behavior during the job interview (Fugita et al., 1974;
Peeters & Lievens, 2006; Van Vianen & Van Schie, 1995).
Based on the Brunswikian lens model approach (1956) it becomes evident that many
more nonverbal cues are used to infer applicant’s personality traits than are cues actually
revealing these traits. This is line with previous research showing that many more
nonverbal cues are used to infer dominance, for instance, than are actually indicative of
dominance (Hall, Coats, & LeBeau, 2005). However, even if recruiters use more nonverbal
cues than are actually related to applicant characteristics, recruiters are still accurate in
assessing applicants (Frauendorfer & Schmid Mast, 2013a; Schmid Mast et al., 2011;
Schmid Mast et al., 2013).
Research has not only focused on the applicant’s nonverbal behavior in the job
interview, but also on the recruiter’s nonverbal behavior and its impact on the applicant’s
perception. Overall, the more the recruiter reveals warm nonverbal behavior (e.g., smiling,
maintaining eye contact, and confirms the applicant with head nods) the better is the
impression the recruiter conveys and the higher is the likelihood of the applicant to accept
the job offer (e.g., Goltz & Giannantonio, 1995; Harn & Thornton, 1985; Keenan &
Wedderburn, 1975; Turban, 1992). Nonverbal behavior of the recruiter can also be
responsible for a subtle delivery of stereotypical expectations and attitudes. For instance,
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
27
interruption behavior of the recruiter can lead to a decrease in the applicant’s job interview
performance, in case the applicant is not confirming (implicit) racial or gender stereotypes
(Latu et al., 2013; Word et al., 1974).
Outlook
So far, most research investigating social perception in the job interview process
focused on the recruiter’s inference, providing information about which nonverbal cues the
recruiters use to infer certain applicant personality traits. By doing so, the lens model
approach as a whole has been neglected. That is, cue utilization, cue validity, and
assessment accuracy have rarely been investigated in one and the same study (except
Gifford et al., 1985). However, only if the lens model approach is considered as a whole
can all sides of the lens be investigated and compared. Moreover, recruiters seem to use the
nonverbal cues that are not diagnostic to assess applicants in a sense they use the wrong
cues and are still accurate in assessing applicants’ personality. It remains therefore largely
unknown how the recruiters make those correct inferences. Future research might want to
refer increasingly to the lens model approach, which will enable researchers to compare
adequately the cue utilization with cue validity and assessment accuracy (Gifford, 2011)
and to assess an even wider array of nonverbal behaviors or nonverbal behavior
composites.
One way of facilitating the nonverbal behavior coding necessary for this, would be to
welcome methodological innovation by using devices which automatically sense and
extract the nonverbal behavior of the applicant. Even if the present book chapter is based on
ample research about nonverbal behavior in the job interview, studies which investigate a
wide array of nonverbal behavior of the applicant are still scarce. Behavioral research stays
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
28
a time and cost intensive endeavor in which human coders have to view the same social
interaction over and over again, in order to accurately code different behaviors (Furnham,
2008; Reis & Charles, 2000). We showed that nonverbal behaviors can be automatically
sensed and extracted during the job interview (Frauendorfer, Schmid Mast, Nguyen, &
Gatica-Perez, in press) and vividly encourage researchers to invest in such promising
methods so that behavioral data collection can be conducted as efficiently as possible.
Automated social sensing is typically done in two steps: first, the applicant’s behavior is
sensed and recorded based on ubiquitous computing; second, the applicant’s nonverbal
behavior is extracted automatically based on computational models and algorithms (Gatica-
Perez, Guillaume, Odobez, & McCowan, 2007). Ubiquitous computing stands for the
computer environment that adapts to the human environment. It does therefore not require
the human to enter the computer environment but the computer and the sensing devices are
implied in the everyday environment; the surrounding becomes “smart”. The automated
extraction of the nonverbal behavior is conducted based on algorithms which are developed
by computer scientists (Ba & Odobez, 2011; Basu, 2002; Biel, Aran, & Gatica-Perez,
2011).
The advantage of automated social sensing is that numerous different nonverbal cues
from several interaction partners can be extracted at the same time and over long recording
periods. Moreover, the automated extraction is very quick. Large amounts of data can be
processed once the algorithms for data extraction are developed. Also, automated social
sensing has shown to be accurate as long as the setup of the devices fulfills the pre-defined
conditions, such as the lightning of the room and camera angles.
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
29
Using automated social sensing, we could show that similar results are obtained when
extracting the applicant’s nonverbal behavior automatically compared to when the
nonverbal behavior is coded manually. Automatically sensed and extracted applicant
immediate nonverbal behavior such as gazing, speech fluency, and tempo variation
predicted recruiter hiring decision (Frauendorfer et al., in press). In a further step, we aimed
at showing that automated social sensing can also be used as a valid tool in personnel
selection. In other words, we were interested in whether the automatically extracted
nonverbal behavior of the applicant would also predict future job performance, especially
when the job contains social interactions as a main characteristic, such as sales. Based on
previous research showing that the nonverbal behavior of sales people predicts job
performance (Leigh & Summers, 2002; Peterson, 2005; Taute, Heiser, & McArthur, 2011;
Wood, 2006), we assumed that for sales, the applicant’s nonverbal behavior revealed
during the job interview might be indicative for future job performance. And indeed, using
a door-to-door sales job, we found that the applicant’s vocal nonverbal cues such as
speaking time, audio back-channeling, and speech fluency all together predicted objectively
measured job performance (Frauendorfer, Schmid Mast, Nguyen, & Gatica-Perez, 2013a).
Even if there has to be done more research on the usage of automated social sensing in job
interviews, we showed first evidence that such a novel method can be predictively valid.
Conclusion
The nonverbal behavior in the job interview is crucial as it has a high impact on
various outcomes. Whereas the applicant’s nonverbal behavior influences how the recruiter
evaluates the applicant, the recruiter’s nonverbal behavior affects the applicant’s perception
and even the applicant’s performance. Moreover, the applicant nonverbal behavior-hiring
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
30
decision link has shown to be influenced by factors such as the situation, personality,
gender, and race. Finally, recruiters use more nonverbal cues to infer certain applicant
characteristics than are actually indicative of the actual applicant characteristics.
Future research on nonverbal behavior can be facilitated by novel methods such as
using automated social sensing which decreases time and cost investment enormously.
Automated social sensing and other automated methods should therefore encourage
researchers to conduct further behavioral studies in this area.
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
31
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Table 1
Overview of Studies Investigating the Relation between Nonverbal Behavior, Inferred Applicant Personality Traits, and Actual
(Applicant) Characteristics
(Applicant) nonverbal cues
Inferred applicant characteristics
Actual (applicant) characteristics
Visual nonverbal behavior1
Conscientiousness, openness
Eye contact
Interesting, relaxed, strong, successful,
active, mature, enthusiastic, sensitive,
pleasant, dominant, liked, competent,
strong, agreeableness
Conscientiousness, intelligence3
Facial expressiveness
Interesting, relaxed, strong, successful,
active, mature, enthusiastic, sensitive,
pleasant, dominant, liked, motivated
Extraversion3, agreeableness3,
neuroticism (-)3
Smiling
Motivation, agreeableness
Agreeableness, extraversion3
Gestures
Social skills, motivation
Social skills, agreeableness (-)3
Nodding
Conscientiousness, intelligence
-
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
47
Postural change
Enthusiastic
Head movement
Sensitive
Extraversion3, agreeableness (-)3
Fidgeting behavior
Intelligence (-)3
Trunk recline
Motivation
Vocal nonverbal behavior1
Extraversion
Speaking time
Social skills, motivation, extraversion,
openness, neuroticism (-), intelligence
Social skills, extraversion, neuroticism
(-), conscientiousness, intelligence (-)
Speaking turns
Extraversion (-), neuroticism,
intelligence (-), communication skills
(-)
-
Speaking rate
Extraversion, agreeableness,
conscientiousness, intelligence
Extraversion
Speaking rate variation
Agreeableness
Extraversion
Speaking fluency
Agreeableness
-
Short utterances
Extraversion (-), intelligence (-)
-
Nonverbal behavior in the job interview
48
Audio back-channeling
-
Openness, agreeableness
Pitch2
-
Neuroticism, agreeableness3, openness
(-)3, intelligence (-)3
Voice energy
-
Openness, extraversion3, neuroticism3,
conscientousness3, neuroticism (-)3
Note. This overview summarizes the studies mentioned in the present review (Anderson, 1991; Anderson & Sheckleton, 1990;
Borkenau & Liebler, 1992; DeGroot & Gooty, 2009; Gifford, et al., 1985; Frauendorfer et al., 2013b; Murphy, Hall, & Colvin,
2003). Characteristics in italic refer to the big five personality traits (Costa & McCrae, 1992).
1 Results of DeGroot and Gooty (2009) investigating visual and vocal nonverbal behavior as composites.
2High value in pitch means a higher voice. A positive correlation therefore indicates that the more the applicant characteristic is
present the more it is expressed through a higher voice.
3 Results from non-job interview studies (Borkenau & Liebler, 1992; Murphy, Hall, & Colvin, 2003)
... These impressions may be based, in the absence of visual information, on interviewees' vocal fluency, voice intensity and pitch, energy, affect, emotional expressiveness, and voice modulation (DeGroot and Gooty, 2009;Frauendorfer and Schmid Mast, 2014;Riggio and Riggio, 2002). Yet many of these verbal indicators are negatively affected by anxiety (Gilboa-Schechtman and Shachar-Lavie, 2013). ...
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This second edition provides managers and students the nuts and bolts of assessment processes and selection techniques. With this knowledge, managers learn to make informed personnel decisions based on the results of tests and assessments. The book emphasizes that employee performance predictions require well-formed hypotheses about personal characteristics that may be related to valued behavior at work. It also stresses the need for developing a theory of the attribute one hypothesizes as a predictor—a thought process too often missing from work on selection procedures. Topics such as team-member selection, situational judgment tests, nontraditional tests, individual assessment, and testing for diversity are explored. The book covers both basic and advanced concepts in personnel selection in a straightforward, readable style intended to be used in both undergraduate and graduate courses in Personnel Selection and Assessment.