How to nail a job interview, according to a body language expert
You can start by really gelling your hair
A new study released today claims the best grad jobs are set aside for eager work experience types, who spend their holidays fetching coffee and rimming senior partners for a whiff of employment opportunities.
They earned their internships by mastering the art of nailing job interviews: appropriately firm handshakes and toeing the fine line of eye contact in between social maladjustment and unblinking obsession.
But you’re clueless. Your only point of reference is The Apprentice and the misguided belief in the sophistication of a shirt with its collar the different colour to its chest.
We spoke to body language expert Judi James who explained the basics of storming through a job interview and how to impress a potential employer.
How to act
Judi says: “The biggest piece of advice you should never take is to be yourself.
“It’s wickedly ridiculous when people suggest you should be yourself.
“You need to be authentic, understand your strengths and present yourself under pressurised conditions. You might need to get that across in less than an hour.
“At the same time, don’t be somebody else. Never look at The Apprentice and take tips from there, all that hard-nosed stuff: nobody buys it anymore.
“A little bit of nervousness is not a problem. I recommend an assertive polite approach.”
Judi says a crappy handshake can ruin your interview.
She explains: “So many experienced people get it wrong.
“I would offer a medium strength of handshake but it depends on what you grab: if they are very strong, ramp it up or if they are a dead fish, tone it down.
“You shouldn’t go in with a sweaty hand. Don’t wipe it on your trousers because that looks terrible, pop into the loo and wash your hands.
“Make eye contact when you shake otherwise it disconnects you from the interviewer when you should be building a rapport.
“On an etiquette note, the person doing the interview should offer their hand first. It might look a bit rude if you go first: wait for them to do it.”
Raw animal behavior
Judi claims animal instincts instead of rational thinking dictate how you’ll be received.
She says: “People think you base the interview on logic and fact but really you are judged on limbic thinking, which is linked to animal survival responses.
“In animal terms, an interview is very much part of a survival ritual.
“We are just animals and we can’t help but evaluate and judge people. You need to present yourself well.
“You need to hit the ground running so you present yourself well. They won’t admit it but interviewers will have tiny subconscious aversions to to you.”
Thinking outside the box, Sussex grad Will Bower aced his job applications by channelling David Brent in a snazzy video application.
He tells would-be employers: “Work is a way of life for me – it’s a religion. Christians, they pilgrimage to Lourdes, Muslims to Mecca.
“But me? To your desk. To my desk, in your building.”
His joke performance earned him 20 job offers and now he works for a hotshot London ad agency.
Don’t be cute or dirty
Judy adds: “If your nails are dirty or if your shoes are scruffy or you’re wearing trainers it could turn off interviewers.
“It could be long fake nails. People also turn up with the most stupid bags that don’t do up because they’re full of rubbish or are old.
“Some walk in with stupid girly things or chewed up biro pens.
“Someone I saw walked in with a teddy bear bag, another had a pair of knitted gloves with pandas on them: that didn’t say competent businesswoman to me.
“Get rid of traces of anything cute: no babies’ braces, no cute body language. Unfortunately some women revert to it under pressure but it doesn’t suit a corporate environment.”
How to dress
Judi explains how to get kitted out on your big day.
She says: “It’s better to err on the side of bland.
“If you try to go in really suited up, you’ll appear overconfident but if you try to go a bit more bland you can then present your own personality.
“People used to be told to dress for the company they’re going to, so find out everything you can about it.
“Still it helps to dress up a bit smart to show you’re making an effort.
“If in doubt, it would be better to wear a tie. I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t appreciate it and shows you respect the company.”
What not to do
Judi says: “Be a good listener but don’t nod your head like you’re on Mastermind when you know the answer to a question.
“Look as if you’re being stretched instead of showing ‘here’s an answer I’ve prepared beforehand’.
“Sometimes they like throwing a difficult question, the curveball. People at Oxford and Cambridge are used to these because of interviews.
“If you don’t know the answer, it’s much better to be adult and genuine.”