Presenting yourself for success part one: more than the clothes you wear

Recently I spoke to my friend, Lauren, who is a Recruiter for a large Brisbane-based company. I asked Lauren about the recruitment process she used when confronted with a stack of job applicants.

Lauren told me that when reviewing the applications, she will often Google the applicant to see what she can find. For those of you wondering - Yes, this is legal and noted in the company’s recruitment terms of reference which are available to applicants.

Lauren highlighted that she looks at an applicant’s personal interests and how they talk about themselves in public places. She develops a gut instinct on them based on what they wear in their profile shots, and even more so from their clothing and grooming in the casual photographs captured on various social media platforms.

Basically, Lauren is overlaying her assessment of a person’s application with that of the brand they are portraying to the world.

Through my work, I have found that job seekers are either very conscious of the brand they are building or completely oblivious. Sadly, there are a lot more of the latter. I am not sure why that’s the case when we’re so aware of the role that branding of consumer goods takes in so many areas of our lives.

So while I will provide you with some tips (in the next edition of eNews) on what to wear for success, I would first like to impress on you six recommendations on how to present yourself for success. A few of these I have adapted from reading Dr Travis Bradbury, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Bradbury emphasises that it is these small things that people use to judge you. The ones I believe are particularly important are:

1. How you treat food and beverage workers and receptionists

The way you treat support staff is very indicative of your disposition and it has become a commonly used interview tactic. Recruiters will gauge how you interact particularly with reception staff on your way in and out of the building.

If you interview at café or restaurant, the interviewers look at how you treat the hospitality staff to get a sense for how you treat people in general. Most people act the part when they’re speaking to the recruiter or other important people, but some will pull a Jekyll and Hyde act the moment they walk out the door, treating others with disdain or indifference.

 

2. How often you check your phone 

Mobile devices are ingrained into every aspect of our lives, but there is nothing more frustrating than someone pulling out their phone mid-conversation. Bradbury highlights how this act conveys a lack of respect, attention, listening skills, and willpower. Unless it’s an emergency, if you are in a business meeting or interview, it’s wise to keep your phone silenced and out of sight.

 

 

3. How long you take to ask questions

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where they talked about themselves the entire time?

I have one particular friend, who shall not be named, who can start with “hello” and then speak for 20 minutes straight before realising she hasn’t bothered to ask me how I am. Bradbury notes that the amount of time someone allows to pass before taking an interest in you is a strong personality indicator. People who only talk about themselves tend to be loud, self-absorbed takers. People who only ask questions and share little about themselves are usually quiet, humble givers. Those who strike a nice balance of give-and-take are reciprocators and good conversationalists.

4. Your handshake

Most people have experienced the limp-fish handshake. I am never quite sure what to do when presented with this slack wristed version of introduction. It is common for people to associate a weak handshake with a lack of confidence and an overall lackadaisical attitude.  Although it isn’t safe to draw assumptions about someone’s competence based on their handshake, studies have found that a firm handshake equates with being less shy, less neurotic, and more extroverted.

5. Tardiness

A habit of showing up late leads people to think that you lack respect and tend to procrastinate, as well as being lazy or disinterested. Be careful not to read too much into people showing up late occasionally, however if they (or you) are doing so consistently it does not present you as a successful person.

6. Eye contact

The key to eye contact is balance. While it is important to maintain eye contact, doing so 100% of the time is perceived as aggressive and perhaps a little creepy. At the same time, if you only maintain eye contact for a small portion of the conversation, you’ll come across as disinterested, shy, or embarrassed. Bradbury advises that a good balance is to maintain eye contact for roughly 60% of a conversation, as it strikes the right balance and makes you come across as interested, friendly, and trustworthy.

Bringing It All Together

It is sometimes these little things in life that make a big difference in how you present yourself. Use them to make a strong impression.

Now that you have these aspects down pat, keep an eye out for the next edition of eNews where I will explain how to connect this with some tips on how to nail dress codes to achieve that dream job or promotion you’re after.

 

Daniel Capper is a Senior Manager at UQ Careers Service (Student Employability Centre) and the Queensland/ Northern Territory President of the National Association of Careers Advisory Services.

 

Disclaimer: eNews articles are intended to provide general commentary and general information only. They are not intended as professional advice or as a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. They are the work of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the university or involve the recommendation or endorsement of the university.