This is why you should work on your body language to get a new job quicker

When it comes to making a lasting impression during a job interview, it’s not just what you say that counts.

A common statistic that’s bandied about is that 7% of your initial impression is determined by your words, while the remaining 93% is derived from non-verbal cues.

This stems back to two 1967 studies by Albert Mehrabian, which featured two experiments with 137 college undergraduates — not exactly a large sample. Both reports analyzed tape recordings instead of real-life interviewees, and findings were combined from both studies to reach this single, commonly-cited statistic.

As a result, after initial easy adoption, these neat little percentages have since received much criticism.

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Subsequent studies

However, a later study in 1992 demonstrated that both tone and facial expressions really do matter when it comes to making judgments.

In Assessments of the Emotional States of Others: Conscious Judgments Versus Emotional Contagion, authors Hsee, Hatfield and Chemtob found that the influence of words delivered in a “flat” voice was about four times greater than that of facial emotions, but again this was based on tapes — silent movies in particular.

This study also showed subjects’ own emotions were found to be equally influenced by what another person said they felt, and by the emotion their faces actually expressed. Essentially, words and facial expressions had the same effect.

However, the significance of non-verbal interactions was then highlighted in a 2006 study by Princeton University’s Alex Todorov and Janine Willis. They discovered that people respond intuitively to faces so quickly that our reasoning minds may not have time to influence the reaction.

Our intuitions about traits like trust and attraction are among those we form the fastest, the former being quite important for job interviews. The researchers found that fundamental judgments about faces did not change with more time; instead, confidence in these judgments increased.

Scientifically speaking then, first impressions really matter, specifically words, paralinguistics like tone, pitch and loudness, and facial expressions.

But there are a number of other cues that can help you make a positive, lasting impression in your next interview.


Gestures can reinforce what you are saying or can become distracting if overused. Use hand movements to emphasize points, but keep them controlled and purposeful. Avoid fidgeting or excessive hand movements, which can convey nervousness or lack of confidence.

Body language

Posture and movements speak volumes about your confidence and interest. Sit up straight, lean slightly forward to show interest, and avoid crossing your arms, which can appear defensive. Open body language signals that you are approachable and engaged in the conversation.

Eye contact is useful for building trust and showing interest, but it isn’t available to everyone. Thankfully, in our increasingly neurodivergent-aware world, hiring managers making neurodiversity adjustments is becoming more routine.

But if you do feel comfortable, look at the interviewer when they are speaking and ensure your gaze is steady when you are responding to questions. This shows confidence, interest and attentiveness.


Touch can be a powerful form of non-verbal communication, but, of course, must be used appropriately. A firm, but not too firm, handshake at the beginning and end of the interview always conveys confidence. And that’s all the touch you need in a professional interview.

Dress and grooming

Dressing appropriately for an interview generally means erring on the side of formal; this demonstrates professionalism and respect. Also pay attention to grooming and ensure your clothes are clean, smart and relatively crease-free.


Artifacts are objects that signal or represent an identity, such as uniforms or accessories. In an interview context, these can include items like a professional portfolio, or even your background in a virtual interview.

These artifacts can enhance your professional image and communicate your preparedness and attention to detail, but avoid political signals or badges for causes, unless you’re interviewing for a political party or a related NGO.

Ready to let your non-verbal interactions do (some of) the talking? Find your next job interview via the VentureBeat Job Board.

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