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A study of the influence of nonverbal communication in the selection interview Posthuma, Allan Bartell


The selection interview is frequently regarded as a situation in which communication between the two participants is effected solely through the medium of spoken and heard words. Closer examination reveals it to be a complex interaction involving subtle contents mediated through several channels of communication - visual, olfactory, tactile, kinesthetic (all "non-verbal") as well as the verbal channel. This study examines the effect of information mediated by non-verbal channels of communication upon the selection judgments made by the interviewer. Interviews under normal face-to-face conditions (where non-verbal communication channels are open) were compared with interviews by another interviewer of the same candidates over a telephone (where non-verbal communication is eliminated). Three interviewers participated, and they, and the order of conditions, were randomized to control order and interviewer effects. The forty-three pairs of interviews were conducted by regular Naval Recruiting Officers upon applicants for officer training in the R.C.N. Results of the interviews were actually used for selection. The principal hypothesis, that assessment ratings by the interviewer are influenced by information communicated through non-verbal channels, was supported: the assessments of 10 of the 22 separate attributes rated showed significant differences between telephone and face-to-face condition. The single overall rating of each candidate which represents the interviewers recommendation to higher authority, did not, however, show a statistically significant difference as made under the two conditions. A secondary hypothesis, that overall assessments made in the face-to-face condition will correlate highly with assessments of appearance and bearing, while overall assessments based on the telephone interview will not, was supported. This suggests that at least one kind of information communicated through non-verbal channels, namely, the appearance and bearing of the candidate, does in fact, influence the final evaluation of his suitability. However, appearance and bearing were found to have no significant relationship to the more detailed assessments of "social interests", "motivation", "range of knowledge" and "personal characteristics". Comparisons of the times expended in the two types of interview showed face-to-face interviews to be substantially larger overall than those on the telephone. The interviewer talked relatively more, and the candidate relatively less in the face-to-face as compared with the telephone situation. The proportion of silent time was substantially the same for both types of interview. Implications for further research and application to interviewing practices are discussed.

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