De­ci­pher­ing the job ap­pli­cant’s body lan­guage

Business World - - LABOR & MANAGEMENT - REY ELBO

How would you know if the body lan­guage of job ap­pli­cants can help you pre­dict how they would per­form in real, work life? And what are those small things that we should look for, es­pe­cially when in­ter­view­ing can­di­dates for a man­age­rial post? — Won­der­ing

Six-year-old Mary came home from school with a small card she said was given her by the teacher for know­ing an an­swer to some ques­tion in the an­i­mal king­dom. “I said gi­raffe had three legs.” Her mother cor­rected her: “But a gi­raffe has four legs.”

Mary agreed: “I sup­pose so, but my an­swer was the clos­est of all the an­swers given by my class­mates.”

Just like lit­tle Mary, the body lan­guage of job can­di­dates is the clos­est thing you have to ap­prox­i­mate how job ap­pli­cants will per­form on the job. Even if the ap­pli­cants can ace all of the hir­ing man­ager’s killer ques­tions and they have all the qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the job you’re of­fer­ing, still one can’t ig­nore those small things be­fore, dur­ing, and after the job in­ter­view.

No, I’m not talk­ing of the ap­pli­cant’s tar­di­ness. That’s too ob­vi­ous. What I’m re­fer­ring to are mi­nor gaffes that some man­agers don’t take se­ri­ously or tend to ig­nore, be­cause they’re too in­signif­i­cant to con­sider, given the fact that we de­cide based on the total pack­age of a per­son, and not on small things alone.

Ca­reer ex­pert Richard Bolles in the 2014 edi­tion of What Color is Your Para­chute? talks about the prin­ci­ple of “mi­cro­cosm re­veals macro­cosm.” It means that what job ap­pli­cants “do in some small ‘uni­verse’ like in a job in­ter­view re­veals how (they) would and will act in a larger ‘uni­verse.’”

Bolles, who is mar­ried to a Filip­ina, tells job ap­pli­cants who are the tar­get read­ers of his book that “dur­ing the small uni­verse of the in­ter­view,” hir­ing man­agers are as­sum­ing that the ap­pli­cants’ be­hav­ior re­veals how they would act in a “larger uni­verse” or the real job it­self.

I must agree with Bolles. Small things can make or un­make a job can­di­date. And so, tak­ing the cue from Bolles, how would you read the body lan­guage of a job ap­pli­cant, par­tic­u­larly those who are in­ter­ested in some man­age­rial po­si­tion in your or­ga­ni­za­tion? As a hir­ing man­ager, you should pay at­ten­tion to the fol­low­ing body lan­guage of ap­pli­cants: One, ap­pear­ance and per­sonal habits. This in­cludes hav­ing clean fin­ger­nails, freshly laun­dered clothes, pants with a sharp crease, and well-pol­ished shoes. Fur­ther, he doesn’t give any hint of to­bacco smoke or wear an over­pow­er­ing cologne that fills the enclosed space of the of­fice. This is im­por­tant even if one is ap­ply­ing for the post in the pre­ven­tive main­te­nance de­part­ment of a fac­tory. Two, nervous man­ner­isms. This is of­ten man­i­fested when an ap­pli­cant re­sponds with a limp hand­shake or con­tin­u­ally avoids eye con­tact with the in­ter­viewer. Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, avoid­ing eye con­tact pos­si­bly re­lates to stress or anx­i­ety, com­ple­mented by non­ver­bal cues like an end­less fid­get­ing of his hand, crack­ing knuck­les, or play­ing with hair dur­ing the in­ter­view. Three, lack of self-con­fi­dence. This is ev­i­dent when an ap­pli­cant speaks softly, re­luc­tantly gives an an­swer, stam­mers a lot, or re­sponds with very short an­swers. The op­po­site can hap­pen when an ap­pli­cant con­stantly in­ter­rupts the in­ter­viewer, or is overly crit­i­cal of his cur­rent or past boss or em­ployer. If not, the ap­pli­cant may ap­pear with folded arms and crossed legs, in a de­fen­sive po­si­tion.

ELBONOMICS: The most im­por­tant thing in a job in­ter­view is un­der­stand­ing the non­ver­bal cues of can­di­dates.

Four, lack of con­sid­er­a­tion for other

peo­ple. This is best shown in the ap­pli­cant’s lack of cour­tesy to the se­cu­rity guard, the receptionist, or the sec­re­tary in the of­fice or to the waiter or wait­ress, if the job in­ter­view is be­ing done in a res­tau­rant.

Five, for­get­ting about so­cial cour­te­sies. This is re­lated to num­ber four. Con­duct­ing the job in­ter­view in a res­tau­rant or ho­tel gives the hir­ing man­ager the best view of a can­di­date in the short list. You can learn a lot about the can­di­date if he or­ders the most ex­pen­sive meal on the menu, or some messy meal like crab or spaghetti, fin­ishes his meal ahead of you, or or­ders an al­co­holic bev­er­age dur­ing the in­ter­view process.

Six, show­ing signs of emo­tional in­sta­bil­ity. This can hap­pen when a job ap­pli­cant talks a lot about his po­lit­i­cal be­liefs, crit­i­cizes some govern­ment of­fi­cials or the com­peti­tors of the prospec­tive em­ployer or other re­li­gions. These top­ics are in­ap­pro­pri­ate in a job in­ter­view, even if the hir­ing man­ager opens up with those top­ics as a way to break the ice.

Last, dis­re­gard for health and safety. Many em­ploy­ers, in­clud­ing those who smoke, pre­fer a non-smoker over a smoker. I guess this is true even among to­bacco man­u­fac­tur­ers who ad­mit that smok­ing is bad for one’s health. This could mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween two can­di­dates on the short­list. Bolles says 94% of the time, the non-smoker will win, cit­ing a study done at Seattle Uni­ver­sity.

Even the smartest hir­ing man­ager can be eas­ily fooled by a less qual­i­fied job can­di­date if he ig­nores those lit­tle things. It is not enough that an ap­pli­cant must ace the killer ques­tions in an in­ter­view process. There are many things that one must con­sider, in­clud­ing the per­son­al­ity of the ap­pli­cant. After all, the hir­ing man­ager or any­one who makes the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion to hire will be work­ing with the can­di­date on a daily ba­sis.

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