Non verbal behavior and Impression Management

Candidate Order (contrast) error means that the order in which you see applicants affects how you rate them. In one study, managers had to evaluate a candidate who was just average after first evaluating several unfavorable candidates. They scored the average candidate more favorably than they might otherwise have done because, in contrast to the unfavorable candidates, the average one looked better than he actually was. This contrast effect can be huge: In some early studies, evaluators based only a small part of the applicant’s rating on his or her actual potential.

Pressure to hire accentuates problems like this. Researchers told one group of managers to assume they were behind in their recruiting quota. They told a second group they were ahead of their quota. Those behind evaluated the same recruits much more highly than did those ahead.

The applicant’s nonverbal behavior can also have a surprisingly large impact on his or her rating. In one study, 52 human resources specialists watched videotaped job interviews in which the applicants’ verbal content was identical, but their nonverbal behavior differed markedly. Researchers told applicants in one group to exhibit minimal eye contact, a low energy level, and low voice modulation. Those in a second demonstrated the opposite behavior. Of the 26 personnel specialists who saw the high eye contact, high energy level candidates, 23 would have invited him or her for a second interview. None who saw the low eye contact, low energy level candidate would have recommended a second interview. It certainly seems to pay for interviewees to look alive.

In another study, interviewers listened to audio interviews and watched video interviews. Vocal cues (such as the interviewee’s pitch, speech rates, and pauses) and visual cues (such as physical attractiveness, smile and body orientation) correlated with the evaluator’s judgments of whether or not the interviewees could be liked and trusted and where credible.

Nonverbal behaviors are probably so important because interviewers infer the interviewee’s personality from the way he or she acts in the interview. In one study 99 graduating colleges seniors completed questionnaires both before and after their job interviews; the questionnaires included measures of personality, among other things. The seniors then reported their success in generating follow up job interviews and job offers. The interviewee’s personality particularly his or her level of extraversion, had a pronounced influence on whether or not he received follow up interviews and job offers. In part, this seems to be because interviewers draw inferences about the applicant’s personality based on the applicant’s behavior during the interview. Extraverted applicants seem particularly prone to self promotion and self promotion is strongly related to the interviewer’s perception of candidate — job fit.

In fact, clever interviewees do say and do things to manage the impression they present. One study found that some used ingratiation to persuade interviewers to like them, for instance by praising them or appearing to agree with their opinions. Others used self promotion tactics, for instance by making complimentary comments about their own accomplishments. Ingratiation involves, for example, agreeing with the recruiter’s opinions and thus signaling that they share similar beliefs. Knowing that a perceived similarity in attitudes or values may influence how the interviewer rates the applicant’s competence. Some interviewees may try to emphasize (or fabricate) such similarities. Self promotion means promoting one’s own skills and abilities to create the impression of competence.

Some researchers in this area question results like these. The problem is that much of the interviewing research uses students as raters and hypothetical jobs, so it’s not clear that we can apply the findings to the real world. For example, in operational settings where actual jobs are at stake, faking or socially desirable responding may be more likely to distort personality measurement and obscure relationships. But, realistically anyone who has through an interviews probably recognizes that such impression management goes on and probably works at least up to a point.