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 interpret 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 minimal education will be much easier to read than an individual who has an extensive 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 find 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.

Have a GREAT Week!  

Rebecca B. Sargeant                                                                                               Recruiter’s Career Coach

For more information:                                                                                                         

To learn more –                                   To test your paralanguage skills –


2 responses to “Bad news – There Are No Phone Psychics!

  1. Wow!

    This is why you always seem to know what I’m thinking, even if I’m not saying it aloud!

  2. ha ha funny!! for a short time I WAS a telephone psychic!!

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