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    Lesson 6: Your Body Language Says It All:  Silent Job Interview Gold 

    The moment that you arrive in the parking lot, your healthcare job interview begins.  Everyone from the receptionist to the staff members that you meet are a part of the interview process.  Your verbal and nonverbal communication can have a major impact on the outcome of the interview. 


    Non-verbal Communication:  A Historical Perspective


    The familiar English idiom “a picture is with a thousand words” is believed to have been first coined by 18th century newspaper editor Tess Flanders. While Ms. Flanders’ paper was put to bed hundreds of years ago, her timeless wisdom proves indispensable today, particularly in the field of healthcare on both sides of the healthcare relationship. Becoming well-versed in non-verbal cues can improve interview operations to the benefit of patients and healthcare professionals alike. One simply needs to look at the whole picture.


    Dr. Albert Mehrabian, pioneer in the field of human communication, established that 55% of communication is based on non-verbal cues or body language and, indeed, an additional 38% derives from tone and not the specific speech chosen (Mehrabian).  When considered with additional factors such as context, clusters, and congruence to improve accuracy of interpretation, body language can help providers establish more effective communication with patients and form a more satisfactory and effective experience.  It can be used to “aid communication, avoid unconscious messages, and decode and react appropriately to other people’s visual cues.” (NT) 


    The bottom line is that what you say, how you say it, and the body language that you use to communicate all plays a role.  You may be saying one thing verbally, but your non-verbal communication may give the interviewers a different impression.  This can be particularly daunting if you come across as vague, lacking confidence, or untruthful.

    7 Critical Components of Non-Verbal Communication

    There are seven critical components of non-verbal communication that healthcare professionals should consider in employing best interview practices and ensuring the highest standards of care.

    •    Posture

    The visual picture we create in the way we sit or stand speaks volumes before we ever say our first word.  Our posture can communicate friendliness and positivity.  It can persuade.  It can also convey boredom, irritation, and disinterest.  To encourage open communication during your medical job interview, it is recommended that you utilize a formalized approach to “open posture.” This can easily be done by sitting or standing with a raised head, leaving the chest and palms exposed, and speaking directly to the interviewer.  Conversely, someone who crosses their arms or closes themselves off by hunching, does not express a willingness to communicate effectively.  
    It is important for you to appear confident and composed during the interview process.  It may help to assess your posture in front of a mirror as you practice answering some of the most common healthcare interview questions.   

    •    Proxemics

    A component of non-verbal communication which should be considered in tandem with posturing is proxemics, or positioning.  It is recommended that you sit or stand approximately one arm’s length away or at an angle directly facing the interviewing team. For example, positioning oneself at or near eye level as opposed to towering over them can establish a feeling of trust and allows interviewers to get to know you better.  In most cases, the proxemics will already be taken care of.  You may sit directly across from the interviewers or there will be a chair already positioned for you.  It is more important to be aware of this outside of the more formal interview setting.  In such case, the traditional arm’s length away may not apply.  Use your best professional judgement, if you are being given a tour or traveling between offices to interview with additional staff members.

    •    Eye Contact

    There is an old saying that “the eyes are the window to the soul.”  During your healthcare job interview, the sentiment bears even more merit.  Psychosocial rehabilitation specialist Kendra Cherry emphasizes the “important role in nonverbal communication” that eye contact plays.  She underscores the importance of proper decoding of nonverbal behaviors such as looking, staring and blinking.  Even how you blink can be an indication of your likes and dislikes, hostility, and honesty.

    •    Expression

    Do you wear your emotions on your face?  How would you react if a prospective employer where to ask you about your current job?  Facial expression represents a large component of what we communicate as human beings.  A subconscious frown can state displeasure or disappointment.  A genuine smile at the right time can encourage open communication.  Often, we are unaware of the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, messages the arrangement of our facial muscles are sending.  Interviewers often use unspoken information through provided by facial expressions to help fill in the blanks have an unclear backstory, during the interview process.  

    •    Gestures

    Do you talk with your hands?  Try to control this during your medical job interview.  Visual signals, with eyes, hands, or otherwise, can also serve as a means of nonverbal communication.  

    •    Haptics

    Understanding the importance of touch and type is a critical part of communication.  Your handshake says a lot about you.  A strong handshake, with a firm grip, while looking someone directly in the eye, is an indicator of confidence.

        Physical Reactions

    Finally, do you get nervous easily?  Physical reactions, such as perspiring, blushing, or rapid breathing are physical reactions that may occur during a job interview, particularly in you are nervous.  By preparing for the job interview ahead of time, you may be able to reduce or eliminate any physical reactions that result from nervousness.

    Using Your Body Language to Improve Best Practices


    Keep the following tips in mind when preparing for your medial job interview:


    1. Assume proper posture to convey professionalism, confidence, and amiability.

    2. Adopt body language with positive connotations: smiling, sustained appropriate eye contact.

    3. Steer clear of negative gestures such as furtive glances toward the door, or looking at your watch.

    4. Ask open questions to help properly decode nonverbal cues such as lip biting, shivering, etc.




    The best way to prepare for a medical job interview is to practice ahead of time.  You can easily seek feedback from your friends, family, and other healthcare professionals.  Additionally, working with a Certified Career Coach, who is neutral, may be beneficial to helping you confidently prepare for your healthcare job interview.





    Cherry, K. (2018, September 26). What Are the 9 Types of Nonverbal Communication You Might Be Missing? Retrieved March 10, 2019, from https://www.verywellmind.com/types-of-nonverbal-communication-2795397


    Communication skills 3: Non-verbal communication

    Nursing Times [online] February 2018 / Vol 114 Issue 2 p 41-2.


    Giles, C. (n.d.). Posture & Nonverbal Communication. Retrieved March 12, 2019, from https://www.livestrong.com/article/197390-posture-nonverbal-communication/


    Mehrabian, A. (1972). Nonverbal Communication. New York: Routledge


    Raut, G. (2017, May 05). Non-verbal communication. Retrieved March 12, 2019, from https://rcni.com/hosted-content/rcn/first-steps/non-verbal-communication


    Thompson, J., PhD. (2011, September 30). Is Nonverbal Communication a Numbers Game? Retrieved March 10, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beyond-words/201109/is-nonverbal-communication-numbers-game?amp