It’s all in the handshake

My cover letter is written, my resume turned in. I have waited on pins and needles for a week when, at last! The employer calls: “When would you like to come in for an interview?”

Not too long ago I applied for the Humanities Internship Program (HIP) here on campus. After the arduous process of printing unofficial transcripts, digging through my word documents to find a writing sample I wasn’t ashamed of and a preliminary interview, I was accepted. Even though I have been admitted into the program, I have not been given an internship by the company I was paired up with yet. As a part of the HIP, both humanities and career center staff prepare you for your big interview with the company, who will then decide if you’re what they’re looking for. And as a gift to you, dear, unemployed friend, I will now impart some of this wisdom to you that has been passed on to me.

Before the interview it is important to:

1) Change your voicemail message! None of these, “Hello? [Pause] Hello…? Oh, sorry, I’m not in right now…” shenanigans. This is important because you need to appear professional to your future employer. It’s the same concept as when you had to change your e-mail address from imaskank_36 to your name when you applied for college. For me, this meant taking my high school friend Leon, who conveniently told callers I was either kickboxing or practicing the dark arts and therefore could not take their call, off of my voicemail and replacing it with myself (boring). People still lament the disappearance of my old voicemail, but alas, such are the sacrifices we make to further our careers.

2) Learn as much as you can about the company. I still need to do this. Sure, I am applying to be a public information intern, but what does that mean? What skills do I need to have? Better yet, what skills do they want me to have? Chances are, you will be asked during your interview how you will be an asset to the company if hired; be prepared with a relevant answer. While it’s great that your “positive attitude” (yawn) and “good work ethic” (double yawn) will lend to your success in the office, the employers will be impressed with your knowledge of their needs for someone who speaks Vietnamese and who can work with Adobe Photoshop.

3) Work on your handshake. I’m serious. A common complaint made by employers is that applicants don’t know how to give a proper handshake. We have all heard that first impressions are made within the first 30 or so seconds of meeting someone, so my advice is to make each second count. A good handshake is one way to be remembered, but unfortunately, so is a bad one. That said, the definition of a good handshake is when both parties’ hands are vertical, with fingers together and thumbs up and open, making sure that when hands meet, the web of skin between thumb and forefingers touch the other’s. Tip to remember, especially for you ladies (and my own personal downfall in this area): you are not a duchess! None of this horizontal, “you may kiss my hand” presentation that only leads to an awkward finger grab. It’s not pretty. So people, start shaking hands now! Use your roommates, your parents your friend’s parents; all practice is good practice. (Although in today’s climate I suppose you should be aware of swine flu and use hand sanitizer between shakes.)

4) Make sure your interview clothes fit and you are presentable. Gentlemen, if your pants are black, so is your belt and so are your socks. Read carefully: No wearing white socks when wearing a suit. I know it’s hard, but even though mom’s not there to pick out your clothes, you can do this. And ladies: knee-length skirts, tasteful neckline. It’s nothing new, so just do it. As some say: “modest is hottest.” Also, be aware of distracting accessories such as large, dangly earrings and jingly bracelets. We want you to shine, not your outfit.

And now you are ready. It’s time for you, dear, unemployed friend, to go forth and conquer that big, scary world of people just waiting to ask you questions. Wish me luck as I, too, embark on this journey. And perhaps soon, we will both be engaging in our respective occupations, reaping the benefits of that firm and confident handshake.