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10 Tips for Physicians looking for Positions

Five Job Finding Tips for Today's Market
Six Signs of a Winning Presence
25 Tips for Interviewing
Body Language in Interview

Six Signs of a Winning Presence

There once was a time (in movies, at any rate, if not in real life) when business executives would say approvingly of a job candidate, "I like the cut of his jib." By this they meant that there was something about the candidate that was pleasing to the eye, like a sail boat with its jib sail properly set. While the phraseology of corporate-speak may have changed, the fact that employers draw subjective conclusions based on a candidate's "presence" has not.

It also remains true that some candidates simply seem to have a generally more efficient and positive air about them than others. What elements contribute to this aura? How is it that certain candidates can "sail into" a room and impress their interviewers, while others don't make quite as positive an impact?

There are six elements I see that separate job candidates with a winning presence from those who do not make a strong initial impression. These include: Physical appearance. Tall, short, fat, thin, young, old, handsome, homely C none of these traits is a factor in rating the physical appearance of candidates. What does count is attention to detail and the subtle cues given off by body language. Appropriate dress is a must, and it is almost impossible to overdress. Even in a business casual environment, men should wear a sports coat and women a pants suit or other business attire. Little things count. A small stain from lunch, shoes that are not polished, shoes that are too polished, a belt fitted to the very last hole, an ill-knotted tie C all of these are signs of potential inefficiency or poor judgement.

The body, of course, speaks volumes, sometimes betraying things that we would never express verbally. Poor eye contact, toe tapping, finger drumming, and wet palms suggest that the candidate is nervous and may feel that they are in over their heads. A too rigid or military bearing may indicate a lack of flexibility or imagination. A phlegmatic demeanor may indicate the candidate is bored or feels superior to the position for which she is interviewing (or simply doesn't get enough sleep). By contrast, an upright carriage, a purposeful walk, an engaging smile, and a confident yet deferential demeanor suggest a candidate who is comfortable with people and graceful under pressure.

Speaking ability. A positive physical appearance can be quickly undercut by poor speaking ability. Speaking ability is not necessarily a matter of tone or inflection. You don't have to have a voice like James Earl Jones to be a good speaker. Nor does it depend on a professorial vocabulary. Rather, it is the ability to process information and arrange it in a coherent and insightful manner. Organization of detail and selection of detail are what count. A good candidate understands the point behind a question and addresses himself to that point with clarity and brevity.

Depth. A confident, neat appearance, the ability to speak well C these are important qualities, but a lot of charlatans have them. Depth is another matter. It entails a concrete knowledge of a variety of disciplines, markets or cultures and the ability to see how they interrelate. Depth can only be acquired through study, application and a variety of life experiences. Generally, it is the product of intellectual curiosity. All good recruiters know how to probe for depth. One of my favorite methods is to ask candidates what book they have enjoyed lately. If it is merely the latest potboiler C or if they have read no books at all C they are unlikely to pass the test.

Listening ability. Good candidates listen not just with their ears, but with their bodies, and, especially, their eyes. The eyes will show if a question or statement has been fully comprehended and its implications understood. Good listeners also ask good questions. An insightful, interesting, or unexpected question indicates that the candidate has thought through what the interviewer has said and has taken the thought to the next level of complexity. Candidates who don't ask questions, or only ask questions about the specifics of a job (salary, start date, etc.), have not been listening.

A sense of humor. Clearly, there are sound evolutionary reasons why humans developed a sense of humor. It's a survival mechanism that allows us to cope with stress and to interact more efficiently with other members of the tribe, or, as we call it today, the company. A humorless candidate will find himself isolated in the work place and, in some cases, feared. Winning candidates don't tell jokes, but they do make observations that show they have the ability to laugh.

Humility. One of the qualities employers put a premium on is confidence. Regardless of personal or professional setbacks, winning candidates are sure they can eventually arrive at a positive outcome. It's a mistake to let this spirit evolve into arrogance, however, as some dot comers are discovering. Candidates who are dismissive of the competition or of the traditional economy, who divide people into those who "get it" and those who "don't get it," quickly wear out their welcome in an interview. There is no need for excessive modesty but winning candidates show that they are eager to learn and can be taught.

These signs are just that C outward indications that an applicant is confident, efficient, personable and knowledgeable. Job experience, education and related factors also are of great importance in determining if a candidate is right for a job. Nevertheless, if interviewers "like the cut of your jib," more than half the battle is won.

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