Tag Archives: interviews

Does a limp one (handshake) harm your job prospects?

Today I turn my attention to the vexed issue of limpness on the job – that is a limp handshake.  Now before you all think I have turned into some orrid little oik peddling pills of dubious provenance, I am, dear reader, of course talking about the role of the handshake in employment interviews.  Most of us have a notion that the handshake is a potent form of communication, and you do not need to be a member of the Masons to understand that a handshake can convey a lot about a person.

Personally I have extreme difficulties with handshakes because I am blessed to born into that elite club that are left-handers (recall Leonardo Da Vinci was left handed, Adolf Hitler was right handed – I rest my case!!!). Seriously I am often confronted by the handshake, because it is my habit to carry briefcases/papers etc in my right hand, and so on meeting someone – say just as I arrive at a speaker’s podium with notes or props, it is my left hand that is free.  Instinctively offering the left hand to a right-handed shaker ends up like some bizarre game of  scissor paper rock.  It is awkward.

limp handshake dead fish

But despite all my speculations that my shaking form provokes deep suspicions in my colleagues about my essential character, is there really anything in it?

Well, Greg Stewart, Susan Dustin, Murray Blount and Todd Darnold recently published an empirical investigation of the effects of handshakes in the Journal of Applied Psychology.  They rated men and women’s handshakes, and linked these to their measured personalities and also independent raters evaluations of their employment interview performance.

For men it turns out that a limp one is a very big deal that could have serious impacts on their future prospects. However that same does not apply to women. Firmness it turns out is very much a male issue.  A firm handshake for men was associated with a greater likelihood of being recommended for hire, and it seemed to work by influencing extroversion.  The effect was not observed for women.

So here is yet more evidence of the importance of non-verbal behavior in employment interviews, and yet more evidence that interviews are influenced by non job relevant factors, and also that male and female candidates are often treated in different ways in these social interactions.  So men, get a firm grip on your recruiter, and recruiters, here is yet another potentially biasing factor to consider when using interviews.

Instant interview stoppers

In Amazing Resumes  published in the USA (and in Brilliant CV  for the UK and Resumes that get shortlisted for Australasia) I use the idea of the first date as a way of thinking about what you are trying to do in a job application (i.e. emphasise the positive, eliminate the negative, and maximise the shared values and experience etc).

Selena Dehne from JIST (my US publisher) once tweeted about another great JIST book of job search and dating, her tweet prompted me to take this further and to think about those date killing comments like:

  • “you don’t sweat much for such a big build”,
  • “would you like to come back to my sheltered accommodation?”
  • “oh that, It’s just an ankle bracelet, they’ll remove it in six months”,
  • “wow your mum is really hot, do you take after your father?” etc.

What are the statements that might kill an interview stone dead. Here are a few to get you started:

  • “well I was going to put the money back in the till at the end of the month”
  • “the stocking on my head? Well I suppose I can remove it if you insist”
  • “better out than in”
  • “sorry the zipper is broken, and anyway I have nothing to be ashamed off”
  • “what are you looking at?”
  • “I know where you live”
  • “My last employer? I was hardly ever there, I hated it, but I would turn up every day for you”
  • “are there many single or available staff here?”
  • “sorry I’m late, but the bar-tender insisted on telling me his life story”
  • “hang on a sec, incoming test message…”
  • “well thats the stupidest question I’ve ever heard!”
  • “say, wont you have retired by the time I start?”
  • “can you get me a coffee sweety?”
  • “I know an excellent hairdresser, would take years off you”

Letters of recommendation or job references have a large influence on shortlisting

Just came across a study by Lynne Clune that I supervised. It followed a selection process examining the relationship between ratings given by recruiters to candidate resumes, to candidate interviews (on video) and candidate letters of recommendation (LORS) aka references. It involved about 40 recruiters judging candidate applications in a real employment setting. The results were very interesting.

First: Good quality resumes, interviews and LORs were given higher overall ratings than other combinations.
Second: Results for the ranking of preferences showed that good resumes, interviews and LORs were likely to be ranked first and the poor resumes, interviews and LORs ranked last.
Third: In order to get a good overall rating a candidate needs both a good resume AND a good interview. It seems you cant make up for a weak resume with a strong interview and vice versa.
Fourth: A good LOR will result in a good overall rating and conversely a poor LOR a poor overall rating REGARDLESS OF THE RESUME OR INTERVIEW.

Question: Are we focussing to much of our advice and coaching on resume and interview preparation when we should be spending more time coaching candidates in how to a) nurture a positive employment reputation and b) how to directly manage relationships with referees to maximise positive references. We all know about Search Engine Optimisation, can I suggest we now need Referee Engagement Optimisation?

One day I will get around to publishing the full study in a peer-reviewed journal, but I thought I’d share this with you at this time.

Interview Tips for 2010

Here are some interview tips that will help you or your clients in preparing for the all important interview.



Career Resources from Bright and Associates

The Factory Podcast



Tip Sheet : Interviews

Before the interview….

Stress busters

? take your mind off the interview and go and do something else which is

interesting and engaging.

? Say to yourself ‘Why am I getting worried about this, why does it matter if I do

stutter in the interview, what is the worst thing that can happen to me, well I

won’t get the job’

? It is worth bearing in mind, that the person sitting on the other side of the desk

interviewing you is human as well believe it or not. Prick them with a pin and

they will bleed.

? The night before the interview try and have as calm a night as possible. Go

back through your résumé, flick through the material, go to a film, watch

television. Just have a relaxed evening, don’t get too tensed up and have an

early night and not too much alcohol. I would suggest that you avoid eating

food with lots of spice or garlic in it. You don’t want to go to the interview the

following day smelling heavily of alcohol or garlic, because that can be offputting.

Get a good solid meal and a good night’s sleep.

Preparation makes perfect

? take down accurate records of the time, date, and venue of the interview – so

you know exactly where you are going and when

? If there are clashes and you are already being interviewed that day for

another job, you will need to consider rearranging the interview. The thing to

do here is to consider which of the two interviews is the most important to

you. Which job you really most want or which job is the one that you really

feel you are most likely to get and then rearrange the least preferred interview

for another day. You can be very polite about that and I would suggest that

you don’t say that you are being interviewed elsewhere, but make another

excuse such as you are unable to leave work that day if you are working, or

perhaps a white lie ‘for personal reasons you are unable to attend on that

day, but you would be more than happy to attend on any other day that they

may care to choose’.

Provided by Bright and Associates www.brightandassociates.com.au

Career Resources from Bright and Associates

The Factory Podcast



? Pull out from your work file the copy of the job advertisement and the résumé

and cover letter that you sent. Study those closely and try to remember as

many of the points that you made about yourself as possible.

? Any information that you found out about the company that you stored in your

job file you should go through now.


? Now is the time to make sure that you have your suitable attire for an

interview. Whether that happens to be a suit or just a smart pair of trousers, a

shirt, and some shoes that are well polished and look smart and match with

the accessories.

? Avoid strong cologne

? Avoid garish make up

? Ensure you hair is well cut, clean and dry

On your toes

? The minute you walk through the door of the building on the day of the

interview your interview has started. In fact, the minute you have a telephone

conversation with the recruiter or the recruiter’s secretary the interview has


? Never make the mistake of patronising or underestimating the administrative

staff in an office.

? you need to have a copy of the résumé with you at the interview, but you

need to know your résumé well

? the cardinal rule in the interview is keep your cool. It is not the time to start


? If you are sure of yourself and you know where you want to go and what you

want out of the job, then you should ask questions. Not asking questions at

interview when invited to do so, gives the impression you are not interested in

the position, or that you have not prepared properly

? Take your time to respond to questions

? If you do not understand a question ask for clarification

? Do not always accept the interviewers premise i.e. “So you left Bloggs and

Co. pretty quickly, where did you work next?”. Why accept the interviewers

premise that you left quickly? This is a typical trap, instead reply “Well I was

at Bloggs and Co for a year, so I was there a reasonable amount of time, and

in that time, the company restructured which removed any chances of

progression in my specialist field…”

Provided by Bright and Associates www.brightandassociates.com.au

Career Resources from Bright and Associates

The Factory Podcast



? Emphasise positives during interviews – do not dwell on negative experiences

such as sackings, work disputes, long periods out of the work force. If you

have had such problems in the past and the interviewer tries to get you to

explain such events, you can try cutting this short by saying, “ I am really

most interested in how I can best develop my career now and in the future,

and I am positive I can make an excellent contribution…”

? Panel interviews (where two or more people interview you at the same time)

are fairer for you, so do not be intimidated, they are less likely to be biased by

factors such as personal rapport, race, gender and other irrelevant issues.

Compiled by Professor Jim Bright, Bright and Associates

Provided by Bright and Associates www.brightandassociates.com.au