Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Be Ready - Some Jobs Must Be Won At The Handshake

You have probably heard that many hiring managers claim they can tell in an interview if the candidate is right for his/her organization at “the handshake.” Alas, I suspect it is true. I worked for a busy corporate vice president once who was very proud of the fact he could tell immediately if someone was “the one” we were looking for. If true, it is a shame, because I sense there is much more to a person than can be observed in the first five seconds with them. That said, we must accept for the moment that some number of managers make hiring decisions all too quickly, and now is the time to plot a strategy for beating them at their game.

As the job candidate, you must seek to control everything within your power and not worry about the rest. Following are some suggested behaviors everyone can control:

Nerves. I hate it when people tell me to relax when there is good reason not to. But to the extent possible, do not present a sweaty, shaky palm in your all-important first greeting. Get to the interview a little early to provide insurance against any problems getting there. Practice the trick of many public speakers by taking a series of long, deep breaths before starting the interview. This will give you opportunity to appear relaxed and confident.

Dress is still important. It is hard to believe that many hiring managers now in their 50’s and 60’s were once “flower children” in the hippie generation and sported long hair and rags for clothes. Why then do some of these same people care what you wear to an interview? It is because hiring managers are looking for someone who can represent the employer well. If they were inviting you to “hang-out” it would be one thing, but business is different. Whether working as a trash hauler or computer programmer, a good rule of thumb is to dress for the interview better than expected. A suit for most “white collar” jobs, and business casual dress is the order of the day for all other (even truly casual), positions.

Details count. For those managers who insist on a good handshake, give them one. Look the interviewer squarely in the eye, grasp their hand firmly, smile, and shake. It should not hurt (either of you), and is a universal way of greeting. Remember all the times your mother said to “straighten up?” Now is the time. Maintaining eye contact and practicing good posture says you are confident and self-assured. Body language telegraphs a lot about someone’s personality and job interest. Looking down frequently, crossing arms/legs, tapping the table, jumping your leg, etc., can send all the wrong messages.

Being in control of those little things only you can control will cause a better feeling about how you did in the interview, and help an employer to decide you are “the one” they are looking for.