V. van R. asks:
I work as HR Manager at a renowned international software company. Recently I had a conversation with a candidate for a senior management position. His CV looked promising: he had more than sufficient managerial experience in the technical sector at a number of leading companies and his multidisciplinary background fitted in well with the job profile. His potential for the position was confirmed through the rumour mill. So I had high expectations, although I didn’t know him personally.
When the candidate came in, I particularly noticed the non-verbal aspect. He spoke in an extremely soft voice and blinked constantly. After we sat down, he constantly looked at his hands during the conversation and held his fingertips together as if he were praying, sometimes even as if he were begging me. In the middle of our conversation, he turned a quarter of a turn away from me, crossed his arms, and stared at a point in the distance, searching slowly and hesitantly for words.
Of course I tried to put him at ease, but it didn’t help. At the end of the conversation I therefore asked him outright if he really wanted to come and work here, and then he responded surprised and confirmed that he really liked our company.
Afterwards I made a round and it turned out that he always behaves this way and what appears academic and distant. Although on paper he completely meets our wish list and what he verbally put forward certainly sounded meaningful and sensible, I seriously doubt because of his disappointing presentation. In this business you still have to manifest yourself more firmly, both with customers and with staff.
The headhunter answers:
Everywhere people communicate with each other. At home, on the street, in the office during a cup of coffee, but nowadays also more and more via social networks and mobile devices. What all these different types of communication have in common is that a message with a certain meaning is conveyed. But communication consists of more than just words. The posture, the facial expression, the intonation, the clothing etc. belong to the so-called non-verbal communication. In human communication, the non-verbal is often the deciding factor. It can be assumed that 70-80% of the communication is non-verbal. If someone says that he is not angry, but looks angry, few will believe him. Also someone who says he is not nervous, but sweat and is shaking is not really believable. People unconsciously respond more to non-verbal signals than to words. It is wonderful that the candidate spoke sensible words, but his message was more complex and more comprehensive and this will also be understood by others. The body language you describe reminds me of some professors from my old Faculty of Law.
Because of his non-verbal behavior, the candidate creates distance: he closes and turns away from you. People can exhibit this behavior when they feel attacked or misunderstood. It may also be that the true reason is shame, disinterest, fear or antipathy. Remarkably, many people are hardly aware of the effect of their non-verbal presentation. This is apparent to your conversation partner from the fact that he indicated that he was very interested in the audit question. Well, it is clear he has not shown that, to say at least! Or would he only consider the meeting with HR superfluous? I fully endorse your conclusion that he does not qualify for a management position within your organization. This candidate has a long way to go in terms of personal development.