Recently, I had a conversation with one of my C-level clients. He had referred one of his young associates to work with me on building confidence. This bright, hardworking associate didn't show up powerfully at meetings with clients and projected a weak presentation. Although knowledgeable about the research, the associate was soft spoken and simply reported facts from the PowerPoint data. The goal was to eventually lead the meetings. After the coaching program, there was a change in the presentation. The associate was more confident, owned the room, and spoke with authority adding valuable comments and explanations to the charts. My client was pleased with the results and confided in me that initially, he didn't think the job interview would go very long.
He described the candidate as having a weak handshake and too soft spoken. Within seconds of meeting, he thought to himself, "No way am I making a job offer." But he did the polite thing and began asking questions. The more he probed the better the applicant sounded. There was substance beneath that lackluster presence. The references checked out as he learned that this candidate accomplished 50% more work than anyone else. He had discovered a diamond in the rough. To his credit he made an offer. Realizing this was a good quality person, he knew some coaching would enhance the presentation skills.
This associate was lucky. The manager was astute and patient enough to dig beneath the surface. But this is the exception, not the rule. Most job candidates are dismissed early on because of poor public speaking skills and an inability to present themselves. And many interviewers are not skilled themselves in interviewing skills.
It takes seven seconds or less to make a first impression. You can look good on paper. But if you can't pass the handshake test, you may not get a second chance.