Can Nonverbal Cues be Used to Make Meaningful Personality Attributions in Employment Interviews?

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This study examines the role of personality attributions in understanding the relationships between nonverbal cues and interview performance ratings.


A structured behavioral interview was developed for identifying management potential in a large, national company. Using a concurrent design to validate the interview, managers were interviewed and the interviews were videotaped (n = 110). These videotapes were used as stimuli for raters in this study.


Results indicate that raters can make personality attributions using only one channel of information and these attributions partly explain the relationships between nonverbal cues and performance measures. Furthermore, conscientiousness attributions explain the relationship between visual cues and interview ratings, extraversion attributions mediate the relationship between vocal cues and interview ratings. Neuroticism attributions had a suppressing effect for both visual and vocal cues.


No matter how much an interview is structured, nonverbal cues cause interviewers to make attributions about candidates. If we face this fact, rather than consider information from cues as bias that should be ignored, interviewers can do a better job of focusing on job-related behavior and information in the interview, while realizing that the cues are providing information that must be attended to.


This study isolated the sources of information provided to raters to either the vocal or the visual channel to examine their impact individually. A Brunswik lens model shows the potential impact of personality attributions predicting both job and interview performance ratings when both channels of information are used.

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