How to Lose A Job or A Sale in 7 Seconds or Less

Has this happened to you? You go to a networking meeting. Someone approaches you who is well dressed and well spoken. They extend their hand and all of a sudden you find yourself holding a wet fish. Yuk! Nothing will sabotage a good first impression faster than a limp, weak handshake. Don't get me started! I talk about handshakes in every presentation, speech, seminar and coaching session because it's so important.

I coach leaders on executive presence and work with executives on their interviewing skills. If you have a weak handshake you've just conveyed a negative impression. First impressions count. You may not have another opportunity to influence. Your presentation is your brand and your handshake is an extension of your brand. Would you trust a leader who didn't have a firm handshake?

Yes, men and women shake hands differently. I tell men that women will not break if they shake their hands with some pressure. I tell women that men are not there to kiss their fingertips. A handshake is an equal opportunity communication. It's the same for both genders.

A handshake is a little thing that anyone can master in minutes. So why is it that even after practicing a firm handshake people revert back to being a wet fish? They don't realize that the real message is in the body language and not the words. You can say all the right things in an interview or sales call. You can have an outstanding resume or product. But if you shake hands like a wimp that is what they remember. It's an emotional reaction and people will be swayed by their feelings.

When my nephew Michael was 14, we brought him to a golf course to get a job as a caddy. Michael, being shy, reached out and offered a weak handshake. The caddy master gave him his first lesson in life. He said, "Shake my hand like you mean it." From then on Michael gave a firm handshake. It's a little thing and as I always say, it's the little things that make the greatest impact. So if you want to make a good first impression, shake hands like you mean it!

Presenting Yourself for the Job Interview

A job interview is a business presentation. You have the opportunity to learn about new companies, new positions, and network with new people. The first step is to equalize the power. And that involves an attitude adjustment. The power should be 50-50. The interviewer is sizing you up AND you're sizing up the company. Don't give all the power to the interviewer. You decide if the company meets your criteria. Once you've balanced the power, here are some tips for presenting a positive image:

Prepare and rehearse. Anticipate difficult questions and prepare a strategy for answering them. Practice your answers out loud until you feel confident.

Know your message. What are your top three strengths, abilities and accomplishments? Know them cold and be able to back them up with examples.

Give a firm handshake. This is your first impression. A weak handshake creates a negative image, as does a bone crushing grip. A firm handshake combined with direct eye contact spells confidence. The handshake should not differ for men and women. Use the same confident and firm grasp.

Create chemistry. Make some small talk to break the ice. Then observe the interviewer and pace his or her energy. Does the interviewer like to get down to business? Then sit up and get to the point. Is he or she a storyteller? Then slow down and give more examples and vignettes. We like people who are most like us. A University or Michigan study determined that when hiring managers the formula was 60% chemistry and 40% skills.

Think and Pause. An interview is not a free association test. Think before you answer. Pause and wait for a response. Don't rattle on at breakneck speed. Speed talking is a sign of nervousness.

Be enthusiastic and upbeat. Nothing sells like enthusiasm. A study by the University of Michigan revealed that when hiring managers, the formula was 60% chemistry and 40% skills. Eagerness and a positive attitude can compensate for a lack of experience.

Ask questions. Job candidates who don't ask questions are perceived as disinterested. Preplan some questions. In the event that the interviewer is extremely thorough, ask an industry question. Don't lead with salary and benefit questions.

Listen. This skill more than any other is the key to your success. Listen with your eyes. What's the body language telling you? Listen with your ears. What do you hear in the tone and words? Listen with your heart. What do you hear between the lines? What is not being said? Clarify and paraphrase what the interviewer said before answering the question. (To improve your listening ask about the Listening Styles Profile and the Listen and Sell audio tape at www.diresta.com)

Ask for the next step. Don't leave without knowing what's next. This is especially critical in sales jobs. The interviewer wants to see if you can ask for the order. If appropriate ask for the job. Express your interest and say, "Where do we go from here?" " What is the next step?" "When should I call you?"

Say thank you. Write a thank you note and mention something specific to each interviewer. Stay in touch. Follow-up may be the reason you finally land the job.

Copyright © Diane DiResta. All rights reserved.