Kusmierczyk studied recorded interviews in minute detail, observing how speech, gaze, gesture, and documents are used to negotiate a shared understanding of what is required as an answer.
She found that as the interview process relies on using multiple channels of communication, a candidate has to make quick assumptions of what is being asked.
“The candidate has limited time to pick up on the signals, and any misinterpretation can be taken as a reflection of incompetence,” she said.
For example, Kusmierczyk explains, when an interviewer points to a candidate's CV while asking a question, this is likely to be a signal that specific information or a specific example is expected.
The candidate will meet this expectation if they make a direct reference to a particular experience in the CV.
Kusmierczyk adds actions that accompany speech, such as gesture, also have an important role to play.
“Gestures can carry information that is not expressed in speech. Mimicking the other person’s gestures and speech in particular helps link the interpretations and create a feeling of understanding,” she explained.
Kusmierczyk, who analysed mock interviews with graduate students and real interviews a recruitment
company allowed her to film, also found evidence of ‘tall-poppy syndrome’.
“Candidates are obviously expected to present themselves as positively as they can but there is an implicit expectation that they will soften their self-promotion,” she said.
The softening strategies employed by candidates include humorous comments, story-telling, or using intonation, gaze and gesture to engage the interviewer.
Interviews – it’s not a one-way process
Shaking up the interview process
success via competency based interviewing
The key to success in job interviews isn’t in what is said or how it is said – it’s the small things. That’s according to Victoria University PhD graduate Ewa Kusmierczyk, who adds these small things such as picking up on signals and gestures help develop trust between the interviewer and candidate.