Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Nonverbal behavior of interviewers influences the competence ratings of observers in recruitment interviews: a study investigating social influence using 360-degree videos with virtual reality and 2D screen displays”, by Wyssenbach, T.; Zeballos, M.; Loosli, S. and Schwaninger, A. (2020), in which authors study, using virtual reality and 2D videos, whether the interviewer’s nonverbal behavior affects the observer’s perception about the applicant’s skills in selection processes within the world of work.

 Nowadays, interviews continue to be the most widely used method in employee selection processes.

In a survey carried out among the human resources staff of companies in Switzerland, it was revealed that 99% of the subjects included some type of interview to select personnel, and a 71% of them were semi-structured interviews.

In them, interviewers must judge the applicant’s competencies as objectively as possible, being guided by his/her curriculum but, increasingly, by what each candidate transmits.

An essential part of human communication and interaction is nonverbal, we already know that. Nonverbal behavior has a huge social influence, affecting our attitudes and beliefs.

That is why authors wonder how the nonverbal behavior of the interviewer would influence the perception that a third, an observer, would have of the candidate’s abilities.

Until now, this has never been studied, although efforts have been dedicated to investigate how nonverbal behavior influences those who apply for a job.

We know that there are nonverbal signals that we can classify as positive or negative, depending on whether they convey something good or bad to us.

Positive signs could be looking into the eyes, nodding to agree, or smiling. While negative signals would be frowning, pursing the lips, or staring. Although we must add that they depend a lot on the context.

To carry out their experiment, authors study these negative and positive cues. How?

A total of 110 participants were divided into four groups to watch a video of a job interview.

On one hand, those who would see the scene with positive body language through virtual reality, and those who would see the interview with negative body language using the same method.

On the other hand, there was a group that would see a video of an interview with positive signals in two dimensions and another, using the same system, would watch a video with negative nonverbal signals.

This distinction between virtual reality and two dimensions was made to find out which one facilitates immersion the most, if there is a real difference between them.

Participants had to evaluate three skills of the candidates: behavior in a team, customer care and sales skill.

The results obtained were in line with the expectations.

Participants, acting as observers of the interview, rated behavior in a team and customer care skills higher when the interviewer reacted with positive body language to the candidate’s responses, while the opposite occurred when observed body language was negative.

No significant difference was observed regarding the observer’s perception of the sales skill of the candidate based on whether the interviewer’s non-verbal language was positive or negative.

One possible explanation for this may be that participants felt more competent or demanding when rating this skill.

These results confirm the bias of social influence and, therefore, authors recommend training and practice in this area. In particular, because selection processes in which there are more than one interviewer are becoming more and more popular.

This training would be beneficial because it would increase the awareness that social influence goes hand in hand with nonverbal behavior and, that really, this is an element that influences our behavior and our perceptions.

Regarding the use of virtual reality versus two-dimensional videos, no significant differences were observed in terms of the immersion of the participants in the study.

Like any research, this one has limitations. One of those that authors point out is that the information collected only examines the perception of three skills judged in semi-structured interviews.

It would be interesting to increase the range of the capacities mentioned and also add descriptive questions about the nonverbal language that participants are observing.

In this way, conclusions, surely interesting and useful, would be reached about other competencies that also have social influence, especially at work.


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