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How You Speak Matters Most During Job Interviews

Steel yourself before a job interview — research shows nervous, slow-talkers tend to not get the gig.

Interviews allow an organization to add a face — a voice — to a potential candidate. Department heads can take a look at you and assess whether or not you would fit in. The resume gets you through the door, but your personality and presentation determine whether or not you get the gig. It’s nerve-wracking, isn’t it? But researchers find that anxious people don’t get hired.

Amanda Feiler and Deborah Powell of the University of Guelph in Canada reported their findings in the Journal of Business and Psychology, where they looked at what tics turn companies off from a nervous, but otherwise qualified, candidate.

To assess how these traits manifested themselves in a real-ish scenario, they got together 125 undergraduate students to participate in a mock job interview. The researchers videotaped the sessions, which were then rated by 18 people who gauged the interviewees’ levels of anxiety and performance.

The interviewees often expressed their anxiousness through certain tics, like adjusting clothing, fidgeting, or averting their gaze. But what seemed to turn off the raters most was the speed at which the interviewee spoke. A EurekAlert! press release wrote: “The fewer words per minute people speak, the more nervous they are perceived to be.”

This slowed speech made raters assess the job candidates as less assertive and exuding less warmth.

Feiler offered this advice in a press release:

“Overall, the results indicated that interviewees should focus less on their nervous tics and more on the broader impressions that they convey. Anxious interviewees may want to focus on how assertive and interpersonally warm they appear to interviewers.”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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