Bad news – There Are No Phone Psychics!

After hearing a few words from a candidate, the recruiter seems to have an uncanny ability to sense and uncover important details or hidden objectives others will not notice until much later in the recruiting process. Often their opinion and projections about individuals turn out to be dead on.

We all know a recruiter like this.

Believe it or not these recruiters are not physic. They have simply developed the ability to correctly interpret what is call “paralanguage”.Often falling under the study of body language, Paralanguage is defined as “the set of no phonemic properties of speech, such as speaking tempo, vocal pitch, and inflections, which can be used to communicate attitudes or other shades of meaning.” Through email paralanguage is displayed utilizing emoticons, fonts, color choices, capitalization and the use of non-alphabetic or abstract characters.

An example of using paralanguage is when you have a conversation over the phone and the person speaking ends the sentence with the word “fine.” We all simultaneously want to run screaming from the room. But the word “fine” means all right, being satisfactory or in satisfactory condition. So why are we all running? Because we all heard the inflection and can clearly interrupt NOTHING is “fine.” This is using paralanguage for self preservation.

Going beyond using your paralanguage skills for self preservation, you can quickly and easily learn to sharpen those skills by simply shutting your mouth and listening to every word some one says and how they say it.

Vocabulary is a large component to understanding an individual. People with minimum education will be much easier to read than an individual that has an education and likes to use complex words. If you don’t understand a word a person has used do not interrupt for clarification. Let them continue and later go look up the word. Handling the conversation in this way will allow you to maintain the cadence of the conversation and will also broaden your own vocabulary.

Inflections on words also increase your understanding of an individual. When a person uses words ending in a hard consonant (need, want, understand) they are driving a point home. When they use words ending in a soft consonant (require, desire, recognize) they are conveying a sense comfort. Listening for the words a person is actually choosing will help your gauge the strength of their personality.

All the little sounds an individual makes during the conversation will either validate or cancel out what they are sharing with you. Chuckling or giggling is the sound people makes when responding to a joke. Put that chuckle at the conclusion of a statement and the candidate is telling you they don’t believe a word they just said. Put that same chuckle at the beginning of that same statement, and the candidate is sharing something truthful but embarrassing. As sounds are objective and can be difficult to interrupt correctly at first, you may consider using them as clues that you need to ask more questions.

Without sending you back to school for a degree in psychology, or giving you a long list of body language books and website to read, there is a simple way for you to develop these skills. You will out how to do so in the first ten pages of every book in the world that teaches you sales techniques. It’s really quiet obvious…

Sit down, shut up and listen! Stop listening to react, but listen to paraphrase back to the candidate what you thought you heard.

If you are strong enough to do this, I guarantee in a few short weeks you will be able to amaze your friends and dazzle your colleagues with your paralanguage skills. They may actually even start referring to you as ‘psychic’. You will increase your productivity by uncovering important details and addressing hidden objectives quickly and easily.


Rebecca B. Sargeant

Recruiter’s Career Coach

For more information:

To learn more -

To test your paralanguage skills -

Views: 168

Comment by Sandra McCartt on July 26, 2010 at 11:25am
This is one of the most relevant posts to successful candidate evaluation i have seen in years. Please post more.
Comment by Bobby Whitehouse on July 27, 2010 at 9:37am
Great post! Thanks for sharing.
Comment by Paul Alfred on July 27, 2010 at 5:28pm
Rebecca you wrote "Vocabulary is a large component to understanding an individual. People with minimum education will be much easier to read than an individual that has an education and likes to use complex words."

I like your post but I must add ... People who are highly educated who can use the English language in its simplest terms are way more complex as individuals and in the end easiest to understand ... its funny the higher up you go in a Corporation the easier a time we have working with people at the higher levels. They suffer less from inferiority complexes .... Sorry to take you away from the point of your discussion ....


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2023   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service