The Science

Clinical studies, conducted by respected behavioral social scientists, have examined the importance of verbal and visual communication over written communication. To put it simply: The most important elements in the interview process are unspoken visual impressions. Likeability, executive presence and confidence can be gauged only when a recruiter can see and hear the candidate. These impressions are, in many ways, more important than the written.

Here are just a few conclusions from behavioral researchers:

  • While both verbal and non-verbal signals have an effect on the perceived communication, non-verbal signals, including tone of voice, had a bigger impact on the interpretation of the message.
  • One study found that the pitch and speech rate affected the participants’ ratings of the speakers on such measures as honesty and potency.
  • Transcripts of verbal interactions are not interpreted nearly as accurately as video clips of the same interactions.
  • In another particularly relevant study, participants viewed 6-second silent video clips of professors and then were asked to evaluate them on characteristics such as honesty, confidence, and supportiveness. They found that by using this strictly non-verbal information, the raters could accurately predict the teacher’s end of semester evaluations. This suggests that non-verbal information plays an especially crucial role in accurate impression formation.

Listen to Psychologist Dan DeWitt