Education Career Services

April 27, 2009

Body language speaks volumes during an interview

Over the past weekend I was asked to review elements regarding the interview process; the result of the april-27a1conversation will be displayed throughout the week in our blog (I always invite your input and stories).  Though common sense typically defines professional behavior and consequence, sometimes it’s good to have an outside source confirm your suspicions. 


The most important communication during the job interview is often what your body communicates as opposed to the mouth.  Without any doubt, body language (that thing called nonverbal communication) has a huge impact on the truth of how you are perceived by giving the interviewer an opportunity to tap into who you are without the benefit of filters.  One of the problems of subjective perception (as you must be aware) is that each individual brings his or her own background interpreting YOUR behavior.  In other words, what you do and how you act may seem normal (and without baggage) to one person, but to the next person, the “reality” may not be so kind.  Let’s take a quick look at one nonverbal act of communication (not too worry, we will go through several looks as the week progresses):


Fish or Fresh

Several individuals came to my office last week in response to a job posting.  To me, and to the two other interviewers in the room, the first impression by way of physical contact is an important moment.  In just about all interview settings, a handshake will be the first physical contact and with it, certain expectations should be considered.


For example, I don’t know many people who like or appreciate holding a limp fish… a handshake without confidence, without pressure, and without any response is like holding a wilted trawl.  Needless to say, not a good impression and one which will (more often than not) be a topic of conversation once the interview concludes. 


The initial interview handshake must:


  • Not be a fish, limp and iced down
  • Be responsive, firm, and fresh
  • Be confident and confirmed with direct eye contact
  • Last no more than a few seconds—over 2 seconds may become uncomfortable  

What is the impression you make with a handshake?  No matter if you are sure of the message being displayed, ask a peer or friend for an honest reaction to your handshake.  Sure, it may seem silly at first, but the consequence of asking your interviewer to handle a fish is not in your best interest. 


No matter the situation, you should never be intimidated (nor should you intimidate anyone with a superhero handshake), do not be afraid when approaching any hiring manager, and never be timid with your first contact impression.  


For today, everyone should become familiar with the manner in which they shake hands.  Tomorrow we’ll look at another nonverbal act of communication…


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

Education Career Services:

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