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Does Your Professional Persona Work For You?

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Do not use any yeshivish, Yiddish or Hebrew terms, especially in a professional firm, even if the interviewer is frum.

Humor The safest route is to steer clear of humor, certainly nothing risqué, or diversity-offensive; steer clear of politics, religion and sports because you do not know where the interviewer’s preferences lie.

Posture Your mother probably told you to stand up straight. This is sage advice! Slouching will detract significantly from your image. We have had one employer reject a student because they slouched. The message that slouching sends is, “I don’t have a lot of a self confidence.” When sitting, sit up straight and lean slightly forward which creates the impression of interest in what the interviewer is saying.

Facial Expression “SMILE!!” Studies show that people who smile genuinely are much more likeable than those who frown or are dead-pan. Just like you would not want to spend time with someone you do not like, interviewers have the same mind set. Make good eye contact, but do not stare. Ask others to evaluate your eye contact, if it needs work, then practice. It is a learned skill.

Attitude Just like you can tell almost immediately if someone has a negative, arrogant or entitlement attitude, so can the interviewer. It is a turn-off. “Neither arrogant or a beggar be!” Do not appear to be desperate for a job. Ask your friends, family or Career Services professional how you come across. If you project an image of not being friendly, likeable, or easy to be with, there are ways to modify your attitude. NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) has techniques that work very well; Google “NLP techniques” for free information.

Body Language This aspect of your professional persona also speaks volumes. Crossed-arms say, “I’m not open to you; I’m defensive.” Avoiding eye contact can be interpreted as lacking confidence or hiding something. Hand shaking also can have many different meanings. There are many good books on this subject. Try to catch yourself and observe your default body language. Ask someone to provide feedback as to what your body is communicating.

Nervous Actions When most people get nervous, and an interview can be nerve-wracking, they do something to shed their nervous energy. Examples are finger-tapping, hair twirling, beard stroking, playing with a pen by clicking or twirling it on the back of the hand (I’m in awe of the dexterity that this type of twirling takes), cracking knuckles, squirming, rocking back and forth. You get the idea. All of these behaviors are distracting to the interviewer. Imagine if you were the manager sending a “twirler” or a “squirmer” out to a client.

Handshake Orthodox Jews need to decide before their interview what action they will take if greeted by an interviewer of the opposite gender whether or not to shake hands. Career Services’ advice is to have the student ask their rabbinic authority how to respond. We suggest that you ask someone who is familiar with the business world. No one should be told to carry a cup of coffee in your right hand and, therefore, indicate that you cannot shake hands. There are two problems with this approach; one, you never take a cup of coffee into an interview, and two, you can always switch the cup to your left hand. Carrying two cups of coffee is not an option!

In summary, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so pay attention to how you present yourself. It is not always easy to see ourselves, so make it a point to ask people who are in the same field that you are looking to enter. Don’t make the mistake of knowing that people who work for a particular employer dress very casually and think you can go to the interview dressed the same way. They already work there; you don’t. Put your consciousness into the details and chase the devil away. Attention to your professional persona will pay off in many ways. Good luck!

We welcome your feedback. Please email your career-related inquiries and/or feedback to tourocareerservices@gmail.com. Touro College’s Career Services assists Touro students and alumni in all aspects of their career search. Contributing to this feature are S. Ronald Ansel, MBA, CPC, Director of Career Services, Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed, and Sarri Singer, Assistant Directors.

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