The Arka Tech

Communicating nonverbally, interview style

Welcome to the world of adulting. Time to get a job. The first steps in getting a job include researching companies you want to work for, applications, applications, applications and interviews.

Interviews can be the hardest part for some. On Oct. 9, Dr. Alexis Johnson, assistant professor of communication, hosted an “Understanding Body Language and Nonverbal Social Cues During Interviews” event to help such students.

“Studies suggest that people form impressions [based] heavily on nonverbal cues and body language and focus less on impression formation based on verbal cues,” Dr. Johnson said. “Thus our words weigh less during interviews then our body language and nonverbal cues.”

During this event, over a dozen students participated in explaining what they fear most from interviews (this was done so Johnson could tailor the event to what students needed), engaging in practice interviews with various interviewer personality types and learned different non-verbal cues that interviewers give during interviews.

One fear that some students had was making eye contact during the interview. Dr. Johnson said that eye contact is crucial, so find a way to make eye contact but the key is to “not to stare down the interviewer.” She said one option for making eye contact less awkward is to “look at other areas of the face in addition to making eye contact so you are not caught staring.” Areas to look at include the mouth when they are speaking or the eyebrows for indications about the interview.

Other tips Dr. Johnson shared were tips for interviewee. Tips that include talking with your palms open, this “signals honesty and engagement in an interview,” or entering the interview with confidence, which sets the tone for the interview.

“When you walk in, have your shoulders pulled back and your neck elongated,” Dr. Johnson said. “Shake the interviewers hand, make eye contact, and be aware of your posture.”

One of the mistakes that people make are is an improper handshake. Dr. Johnson suggests that interviewees should “maintain eye contact while shaking hands, smile, lean in, shake with your elbow and keep your forearm stiff.” She said the mistake people make is trying to do a handshake with the whole arm and that is incorrect.

With the participants armed with these tips and tricks, Dr. Johnson had the break into groups and do mock interviews. During these interviews the interviewer had to be no facial, serious mode for the first interview and the happy, welcoming the second interview. She said this allowed the participants to get an understanding of different types of interviewers. Most students felt more open to talk with the welcoming interviewer and had a hard time communicating with the serious interviewer. Dr. Johnson suggests practicing and being aware of your non-verbal communication will help during uncomfortable interviews.

The event also included tips on what to look for in the interviewer to let a person know that the interviewer is interested in what is being said. Items to look for include raised eyebrows, making eye contact, occasional smiling, sitting with their body toward the interviewee and leaning forward. While these are signs the interviewer is listening it is in no way a for sure sign you’re getting the job. Dr. Johnson said these are tips that help you know that your interview is going successfully and to “be confident even if the interviewer lacks emotion.”

For more information or to ask questions about this subject contact Dr. Alexis Johnson by email at or by phone at (479) 964-0891.