Jaded jobseekers jiggered by limp handshakes

Never mind the global economic maelstrom; jobseekers need to focus on the strength of their wrists.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

You don’t need us to tell you that it’s tough to get a job at the moment; the long queues at your local Jobcentre attest to that. But according to recruitment company NES, some jobseekers are making life harder for themselves – because of their negative body language in interviews. We can well believe that the current climate has created something of a vicious circle: the more knock-backs a candidate gets, the lower their confidence will be the next time they go to an interview. But we can’t help feeling that the nasty great recession we’ve just had is probably a more significant reason for their difficulties...

As NES points out, when someone meets you for the first time, their initial impression is often based on non-verbal cues. It cites the famous 1971 study by Albert Mehrabian (an oldie but a goodie): this suggested that what we say accounts for just 7% of the message conveyed, while 38% is down to body language and 55% is down to the way you look. In other words, it might not matter how brilliant your interview answers are if you don’t look the part in the first place.

Thank goodness for NES, then, who have put together a list of the top five turn-offs for interviewers. The biggest bugbear is apparently a limp handshake, which can apparently suggest a ‘weak character’. Bad posture is also a no-no, because it points to low self-esteem, while avoidance of eye-contact may be taken as a sign of dishonesty. You also need to avoid your voice speeding up or becoming high-pitched in stressful situations, since it will ‘undermine your authority’. And last but not least, you should watch the interviewer’s body language carefully (if they start yawning, the interview’s probably not going that well).

We’re sure there’s an element of truth in all this. But it does depend very much on what the actual job is. If you’re applying for a client-facing role, for example (particularly a sales job), employers won’t want to hire a shrinking violet who can’t make a good first impression; after all, that’s part of the job. But would an employer turn down an otherwise qualified candidate for a back office or IT role, say, just because their grip wasn’t firm enough or they didn’t maintain eye contact for five seconds? We’re not convinced.

Then again, the fact remains that the job market is incredibly tough at the moment. Recruiters are often spoilt for choice, so if you're going to interviews, you need to do whatever you can to stand out and maximise your chances of getting that job. If that means working on your handshake, so be it.

In today's bulletin:

How to chop £70bn of costs from the UK's bloated public sector
Ofcom says Sky must charge rivals less for sport rights
Gartmore woes highlight danger of over-reliance on stars
Car scrappage scheme saves 4,000 jobs - but for how long?
Jaded jobseekers jiggered by limp handshakes

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