The importance of a handshake in a job interview

handshakeA handshake can sometimes make or break an interview. That’s right. It’s that important.

In fact, research has proved the significance of a proper handshake and how it can make a good – or bad – impression and influence hiring decisions.

According to a study done by the University of Iowa Tipple College of Business, a good handshake is more important than your appearance or the way you dress in sending a message to a hiring manager. Neuroscience research has also confirmed the power of a handshake and the fact that strangers form a better impression of those who effectively offer their hand in greeting.

The Iowa research focused on 98 business students who participated in mock interviews with area businesses. They also met with trained handshake raters, who shook their hands at various times during the study period.

What the researchers found was that those job seekers who were scored highly by the handshake raters were also considered more likely to be hired by those conducting the mock interviews.

It’s partly based on first impressions. Interviewers are said to make up their minds about a person in the first two or three minutes of an interview, and that’s exactly when the handshake takes place.

But it’s also the fact that, “Job seekers are trained how to act in a job interview, how to talk, how to dress, how to answer questions, so we all look and act alike to varying degrees because we’ve all been told the same things,” said Greg Stewart, Tipple School of Business professor and one of the researchers. “But the handshake is something that’s perhaps more individual and subtle, so it may communicate something that dress or physical appearance doesn’t.”

Handshake dos and don’ts

So what makes an appealing handshake? Here are some tips:

  • Even if you’re left-handed be prepared to shake with your right hand, and make sure it’s free when you’re meeting the hiring manager before the interview.
  • If your hand is sweaty, wipe it off. If it’s cold, warm it up before you arrive at the interview room.
  • Make eye contact and smile at the person you are meeting, before you shake their hand.
  • Let the hiring manager initiate the handshake.
  • Squeeze their hand firmly and shake from your elbow, not just your wrist. (About the worst impression you could make is with a limp, or dead fish, handshake, so avoid this at all costs.)
  • A handshake should only last for a few seconds, so after two or three pumps, loosen your hand.
  • Just like you rehearse the answers to potential interview questions, practice your handshake with friends and family members, so it will seem natural.

Keep in mind that a handshake is a universal greeting that can express connection and unity and that you care, which may help to make a lasting impression.

And make sure that your handshake is as polished and perfected as the rest of your interview skills. It may make the difference of whether you get the job or not.

 

References may be key to helping ex-offenders find a job

job referencesWhen you’re in reentry and looking for a job, you’ll need all the help you can get. And that means finding people who can speak about your talents, skills and character to a potential employer.

Along with your resume or JIST card and turnaround packet, don’t forget a list of references.

It’s no longer appropriate to just include “references available upon request” at the bottom of your resume. Instead you should compile a professional looking list of several people who are happy to sing your praises. Pick people who have known you for at least three months, but the longer the better.

These references can be a boss you worked for, a supervisor at a volunteer gig (all the more reason to volunteer) or, if you haven’t had a job for a while, you can use a personal reference that knows you well. For a personal reference, you might choose a teacher, coach, mentor, spiritual leader, counselor or even the job developer you’re working with.

Before you include them on your list, however, check to see if it’s OK and ask them the best way for potential employers to contact them. Make sure you get all the relevant info: the person’s name and title, name of the company or organization and its address. Also ask for the reference’s work phone number (or mobile phone if it’s a personal reference) and an email address.

Include a sentence or two on how the reference knows you and maybe some specific information they might be able to share about you.

Find a job reference template online

There are many templates online, but we particularly like the one on the Damn Good Resume Guide website. Another good example can be found on the Career Nook website.

Make sure your references have your latest resume or JIST card, so they’ll be up to date on your experience. Also contact them when you go on a job interview, preferably before, in case the hiring manager calls them soon after the interview is over. Let your references know what type of job you’re applying for and where, just as a heads up in case they do get a call.

Have your reference call the hiring manager

Another effective, usually overlooked, tactic is to have your reference call the hiring manager, preferably before the interview. This can demonstrate initiative on your part and a sincere interest in being offered a job. Your reference could say something like, “I understand that (your name) is coming in for an interview tomorrow (or whenever), and I’d like to highly recommend him. He worked for me on a bathroom remodel, and he’s an excellent carpenter, hard worker and reliable. I highly recommend him.”

Of course what the reference says would be tailored to you and the job you’re applying for, but this can be very effective.

Finding a good reference or two who can vouch for your abilities might just be the extra thing that will inspire someone to hire you.

 

Determining the best final question to wrap up an interview

interview

Brad Drevno

In job interviews, the questions that you ask the interviewers may be as important, if not more so, as the questions they ask you. And the question you ask last may leave a lasting impression.

As you prepare for an interview, keep in mind that very carefully crafted questions will give you insight into the company or organization and help you determine what type of place it is and whether it would be a good fit for your skills, talents and personality. In other words, would you be happy working there?

Asking intelligent questions will also show the person who is interviewing you that you’ve done your homework, understand the business and are interested in potential employment within it.

There are a multitude of questions to ask throughout the interview, and many examples of these can be found online. (We also offer tips on our website.) But what happens after most of the questions have already been asked? How do you respond when the interviewer closes the interview with, “Do you have any other questions? or “Is there anything else you’d like to know?”

Save an intelligent question for the end of the interview

Instead of saying, “No, I think I’ve asked everything I need to,” be sure to save a question for the end.

Brad Drevno, chief operating officer of Professional Case Development in Denver, Colo., – and mentor for business students at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business – has a suggestion for an idea he picked up during his search for his current position.

“We’ve all been there,” he says. “It’s the end of the interview, and after nearly an hour of pouring your heart (and work experience) out to a potential employer, the hiring manager asks if you have any last questions before wrapping up.”

“It’s meant to be a formality, of course – a way to end the conversation without kicking you out right then and there. But it’s also an opportunity, intentional or not, to make one final impression and give your interviewer something to remember you by.”

Effective question to close interview

Drevno was inspired by an article on the Medium website which was written by Marshall Darr when he was entrepreneur in residence at Tradecraft.

In the article, Darr says he ends each interview with: “Actually, yeah, I was wondering what your best moment so far at (company name) was?”

Darr credits this rather innocuous question not only with giving him insight into the hiring manager and the company in a way that perhaps no other question could, but it has also turned interviews that weren’t going well for him into invitations back.

And Drevno found that, “There’s no higher note to end on than with your interviewer’s fondest memory of the company, a feeling that can now be subconsciously associated with your prospects as a future employee.”

It gives the hiring manager a chance to share the benefits of working for the company, and if they can’t come up with a “best moment,” you might want to consider looking elsewhere.

Everyone likes a happy memory. And encouraging the hiring manager to remember one might just be the thing that sets you apart from other applicants – and leads to a call-back interview or possibly a job offer.

 

Informational interviews can prove effective in job search

Informational interviewsLooking for a job and want to learn more about a specific field and the people who work in it? There are few better ways to do this than by conducting informational interviews.

In an informational interview, instead of an employer interviewing you, you will interview them. And it gives you a chance to talk to potential hiring managers – or even regular workers.

It’s surprising how few people use informational interviewing, but they should, because it works. Randall S. Hansen, former Stetson University marketing professor and founder of the Quintessential Careers website, says that while only one in 200 resumes results in a job offer, one in 12 informational interviews results in an offer.

Many people are happy to participate in informational interviews, because they like to share information about what they do. A face-to-face meeting is the best kind of informational interview, but if people say they don’t have time, see if you can ask them a few questions on the phone.

How to conduct informational interviews

To set up an informational interview, you need to do the same sort of research you would do if you were trying to find potential employers. Choose a few companies to target, and find out the names of the hiring managers of the departments you’re interested in.

Call them up, tell them you want to do an informational interview and schedule a time. These may take place at the person’s office, or better yet, invite them out for coffee. the $4 or $5 it would cost is an excellent investment, and they often pick up the tab anyway.

You can also use friends to create contacts for informational interviews. If you know someone who does the kind of work you want to do, ask them who in their company might be a good person to talk to. When you call that person, you can say, “So-and-so suggested I call, and I’d like to get together for an informational interview to learn a little more about the type of work you do.”

Online forums can be another tool to help you in your job search. Indeed.com, for example, is not just a great job aggregating website, but it also has great tools. You can use it to identify trends and salaries and to get advice on its online forums, where people go to share knowledge. These forums appear to be very effective. If you ask a question on the forum, people tend to be very helpful in supplying information about working in a particular company or field.

Be aware that an informational interview is not a means of asking for a job. Rather it is a chance to pick someone’s brain and learn what it’s really like to work at a particular type of job. You may also seek advice on how to conduct a better job search or improve your resume.

It’s an opportunity to network and practice talking to people without the pressure of an official interview.

Some examples of questions to ask

Make sure you do some research on the person’s company and the field, if you don’t already know a lot about it. Also prepare a list of questions and take notes during the interview.

Here are a few examples of questions to get you started:

  • Why did you choose this particular field?
  • How did you get your first job in this field?
  • What excites you the most about this type of work?
  • What are the biggest challenges?
  • What is a typical day in your work like?
  • Why did you choose this company, and what do you like about working here?
  • What are the most important skills one would need to work in this field?
  • What is the best way to get experience for this type of job if one doesn’t already have it?
  • What kind of advice can you give to someone who is seeking employment in this field?
  • Is there anyone else you can recommend for me to talk to?

When you go for an informational interview, dress professionally (as you would for a job interview), and don’t forget to send a thank you note afterwards. Although an email thank you would be OK, you will make a much better impression if you send a hand written thank you card.