March 2007 Vol. 6 No. 3

Body Language – Paying Attention During Interviews
by Barbara Metzger

In the next few newsletters I wanted to share some insights from “The Definitive Book of Body Language” by Allan and Barbara Pease.

Good interviewing skills include paying attention to body language. If you have a con artist in front of you, they are way ahead. Understanding using an open palm to increase trust will be just one of their techniques. The good news is the great majority of people are not aware enough to consciously change their body language to match what they are saying.

One of the concerns with interviewing is whether the applicant is telling the truth or just what they think they should say. When little children lie about something, it is very common for them to put their hands over their mouths. This gesture is refined as we grow older. With teenagers, they may touch the corner of their mouth. As adults, faces have less muscle tone and are harder to read. One sign to watch for is touching the nose may indicate a lie. Others may be a split second sneer or grimace, an eyebrow lift, avoiding eye contact, or a corner of the mouth twitch.

According to the authors, research shows women are more skilled at reading body language. They are more apt to know something is not right when body language and words are not matching. However, anyone can study the signals and with practice, become very adept.

Another signal to watch for in an interview is the crossed arms. Unless the room is cold, crossed arms indicate a defensive attitude. The book tells of research done in 1989 revealing a person in the tightly held crossed arms position not only indicated protecting themselves from the outside, but they were consistently more negative about others and paid less attention to what was being said.

This led to others not being as trusting of them. Basically, when a person is nervous, negative or defensive, it is very likely they will fold their arms firmly on their chest. Also watch for their fists being clenched while in this same position. This is a strong indicator of hostility as well as defensive.

Interestingly, people carrying weapons seldom use the crossed arms approach. They feel they are already protected. Police officers who wear guns, will use the crossed arms with clenched fist when they are standing guard indicate clearly not to test them.

Also, it may be good to note crossed arms with a relaxed sitting position are different. It will still indicate some closed attitudes but is not in the openly aggressive mood.

Spend 25 minutes this week. Watch other people’s body language when you are not a participant in the conversation. What can you learn? How can you apply this to interviewing?

Stay tuned. We will cover some more hints next time.

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Behavioral Interview Increases Hiring Success By 35 Percent by Dr. Ira Wolfe

Did you know that the success of the unstructured interview is only 57 percent, hardly better than flipping a coin? The problem rests in the fact that most interviews are mere discussions, skirting the real issues. One colleague of mine actually wrote a book comparing the unstructured interview to a blind date....and we know how well most of them work out.

You can increase your success rate over 19 percent (to 68 percent reliability) by using a situational interview, but this of course means that all interviewers are skilled at asking the right questions......and listening......and probing!

The most successful interviews are behavioral interviews. Behavioral interviews probe for competencies, not just past experience and hypothetical scenarios. In other words, what were the skills used by the candidate to get the job done?
Candidates with developed competencies can repeat the success regardless of the situation or environment and exposes candidates who were just in the right place at the right time. Without competence, candidates just might rely on past behaviors and keep doing the same thing over and over again....even if the situation the next time around is different. The success rate of behavioral based interviews is over 77 percent!!

But not so fast before you jump on this bandwagon. Behaviorial interviewing requires pre-planning and training. You can't just re-name your unstructured interview process a behavioral interview and expect different results.

The first step in introducing behavioral interviewing into your selection process is identifying the essential competencies required to the job. There is no magic formula to competency ID but our work with clients has demonstrated time and time again that 2 to 3 competencies are the right number for line workers and entry level positions; 3 to 7 competencies for supervisors and managers, and 7 to 10 competencies for directors and executive levels.

The next step requires prioritizing the competencies. All competencies are not created equal. Effective behavior based interviews require that each competency is rated in importance. This takes some discussion among subject matter experts, managers and employees who know the job inside and out, to decide what competencies are absolutely essential and which ones are just nice to have.

While some degree of proficiency in all 10 competencies might be necessary for a vice-president to meet performance expectations, 3 to 5 of these might rise above the rest. When my clients struggle narrowing down the laundry list of 30-plus competencies to a mere 3 to 10, I provide this tip: If your employee struggled with timeliness and details but exceeded all sales quotas and customer satisfaction goals would you discipline him? Therefore, getting results and customer focus (2 examples of competencies in our Strategic Success Model) would hold greater importance than time management and detail orientation.

Behavioral competency-based interviewing makes good business sense and is a best practice. To learn how to identify competencies and conduct effective behavioral interviews, email and please include your name, company, and best time to contact you.

Perfect Labor Storm Alerts #625 to #627

Fact #625: To offset projected labor shortfalls over the next decade, the 55+ age group will need to increase its labor force participation from 40 percent to 51 percent for males and 26 percent to 40 percent for females. At the same time, the 20 - 29 year olds group will need to increase its labor force participation from 87.5 percent to 105.4 percent for males and 75.2 percent to 90.6 percent for females. (Source: Watson Wyatt, World Economic Forum 2004)

Fact #626: The estimated retiree/active worker ratio is expected to increase by 71.4 percent in the United States by 2030. Switzerland is expected to experience a 100.2 percent increase for the same period. Italy's retirees will outnumber its active workers by 2030. (Source: Watson Wyatt, World Economic Forum 2004)

Fact #627: Germany's birth rate, already the lowest in Europe, dropped even further in 2005. Germans had 8.5 births per 1,000 inhabitants in 2005, down from 8.6 the previous year. That compares with 12 births per 1,000 in Britain and 12.7 per 1,000 in France. The town of Chemnitz, in the former East Germany, has what is believed to be the lowest birth rate in the world at 6.9.

The featured article and labor storm facts are written by Ira S. Wolfe, founder of Success Performance Solutions, and is distributed here by MaxImize with permission.