Last week I started my two-part series on how to do well in interviews. The last of the three points made in that article described research suggesting a bad handshake can hinder you from getting the job. I’ll pick up where I left off and explain what a bad handshake is
A bad handshake
Your handshake is bad if it is too wet (uurrgh!); too limp and weak – this makes you seem shy and anxious; too firm – don’t squeeze too hard, it hurts. Bringing pain to your interviewer can never be a positive start to an interview. Your handshake is also counter-productive if you barely touch the interviewer – this suggests you want to maintain a distance and perhaps don’t want to be touched and if your hand is straight.
In a pleasant handshake, your hands should clasp each other in a sort-of hand embrace; this isn’t possible if your hand is proffered rigidly straight.
It doesn’t matter who extends their hand first in an interview setting; however, don’t forget to shake hands at the end of the interview too. The interviewer might not care about creating a good impression with you so it is very much up to you to ensure that niceties like handshakes happen.
These are four more ways to impress in an interview:
1. Maintain eye contact AND lean forward
Eye contact and leaning forward portray confidence in oneself, focus on and interest in the discussion. Eye contact especially can help to bring your interesting personality across.
When someone fails to maintain eye contact they could just be shy (not a good trait in investment banking). On the other hand, it might mean they are lying or plain simply bored and hence not that interested in the job.
2. Mirror the body language of the interviewer
I recall learning on a sales training course that subtly mimicking the body language of someone you are trying to sell to (and in this case you are trying to sell yourself) can have a positive impact by showing agreement and empathy.
Body language mirroring naturally happens when two people, such as good friends, are in sync and getting along. However, because body language experts have successfully made us aware of this fact, you will put yourself at a disadvantage if you are blatantly following your interviewer’s body movements. You have to be subtle.
Importantly, don’t create a barrier between you and the interviewer by crossing your arms. Keep your arms on your lap or at your sides.
3. Be careful about cracking jokes
Making your interviewer laugh is a sure fire way of making them like you and will go a long way towards getting you the job or at least into the next round of interviews. Take heed of these two provisos:
4. Don’t repeat the question, please
It makes you sound a little stupid.
“So Ms. Phiri, where did you come in from this morning?”
“This morning, I came in from....”
Umm, I hope that sounded oh-so-kindergarten even to you. It’s important to make the interview flow like an ordinary conversation and the chances are you don’t repeat the question when you’re talking to someone that you’re comfortable with.
Sometimes, it is appropriate to repeat part of the questions, for instance, if several questions are asked in one go then repeat each question as you answer it to give your answer more structure.
Finally, speak passionately and enthusiastically. Good luck getting your dream job!
“Opportunities don’t often come along. So, when they do, you have to grab them.” Audrey Hepburn
It’s hard to get a job. It’s even more difficult if you are not well connected. That said, if you get to the interview stage you can control whether or not you get the job by behaving in the right way. The below tips will influence whether or not you get the job.
If you believe that you are a worthy candidate, it will show in your interview. Doing your research will help to build your confidence; don’t underestimate the competition; there are many high quality candidates out there.
Finally, there is a thin line between confidence and arrogance; don’t cross it. A whiff of arrogance and your interviewer will do their damnedest to make it a ‘challenging’ interview.
2. Smile even as you speak
It makes you seem more likeable and will help to build a rapport with the interviewer. Smile at someone and most of the time they smile back!
Give a firm handshake at the start and at the end
A firm handshake is the only physical contact that takes place (or should take place) between interviewer and interviewee and can set the tone for the rest of the interview.
Some research argues that lightly patting the elbow of the person whose hand you’re shaking with your free hand is helpful in building a rapport. You might have seen politicians doing this on TV.
Why does the handshake matter?
According to Paul G. Mattiuzzi, Ph.D., research has shown that your handshake actually reflects certain personality characteristics and can make a real difference in certain settings, e.g. interviews and business meetings. Furthermore, research also suggests handshakes might be a bigger self-promotion engine for women than for men.
He quotes an article by University of Alabama psychologists, William F. Chaplin et al, published in 2000 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In this study a panel was trained to recognize and classify: completeness of grip, temperature, dryness, strength, duration, vigor, texture, and eye contact. At a high level, there was a close correlation between the handshakes that were classified as creating a ‘good impression’ versus a ‘poor impression’.
When matched up against personality, those with a firm handshake were found to be the same people that were extroverted and more open to new experiences. The rest were more anxious and shy. The benefit of a firm handshake was found to be stronger for women because women were less likely to give one so the ones that did stood out more.
That concludes my tips for this piece. Next week I will give you four more tips on how to do well in interviews plus a description of what a bad handshake looks like.
“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.” Andrew Carnegie
For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.