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The Ten Foot Pole

Postby Kelly Ann » Sun Jan 07, 2007 5:54 pm

Dave, thanks for the compliment regarding the list.

As for first impressions, is not the act of interviewing entirely based on them. Hence the importance of the polished cover letter, resume, and CV and that oh soo important interview. But my opinion is to not worry about all of the finite details. Just give a handshake like you mean it and I think you'll be OK.

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Handshakes

Postby Dave Jensen » Sun Jan 07, 2007 6:07 pm

Russell said, "My point clearly was not whether it *is* the leading determinator but whether it *should be* the leading determinator. I'd be happy to hear some scientific studies about that."

Russell, like it or not, that is the world we live in. I don't expect anything to change, either. Perhaps over decades we could all work towards reducing the impact of first impressions. But, don't you think its good at the same time to teach young people how to win in the system they are faced with? (Yes, the best person should get the job, no disputing you there.)

Dave
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Handshakes

Postby Jack » Sun Jan 07, 2007 7:40 pm

Dave wrote, "Russell, like it or not, that is the world we live in. I don't expect anything to change, either. Perhaps over decades we could all work towards reducing the impact of first impressions. But, don't you think its good at the same time to teach young people how to win in the system they are faced with?"

I never suggested it isn't the world we live in or that we shouldn't teach young people to deal with it. But if we teach people only to deal with it, without questioning the rationale and encouraging them to try to change it if the rationale is found wanting, change may never happen.

Cheers,
Russell
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Handshakes

Postby josh9922 » Sun Jan 07, 2007 8:12 pm

I would like to thank Ale for his comments on handshakes. I am an Australian in graduate school in the US, and typically greet by handshake. I do not quite understand why, but I have come across my fair share of watery handshakes while in the US, from students and professors in equal proportion I might add.

A handshake that leaves a good first impression is relatively easy to learn. Simply extend your hand, with your fingers outstretched so they do not look limp, and then apply pressure on the other shaker until you sense a firm grip. You are not trying to crush the other hand, but you must make firm contact. One can practice by shaking your own hand.

The skill in the handshake comes from determining the correct amount of pressure to apply for a given person. Typically, people with large hands have a firmer grip. Do not use a "one grip for all", you must be able to adapt. Practice on your friends and family!

There is another important aspect to the handshake. When shaking, you must make eye contact! Do not look at "the shake", i.e. head down. Hopefully, one can see why the handshake naturally integrates itself into an introduction -- if you give a good handshake, you will immediately establish eye contact. Eye contact implies your head is up, so you will appear confident (even if you are not). You will also be within (at most) 2 arm lengths of the other person and they will be more likely to hear you introduce yourself (even if there is background noise).

Cheers
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Handshakes

Postby SS » Sun Jan 07, 2007 9:46 pm

"There is another important aspect to the handshake. When shaking, you must make eye contact! Do not look at "the shake", i.e. head down."

I hope this goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: this is especially important when you are shaking hands with a woman. If I am looking directly at you, your eyes should not be wandering downwards!
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Handshakes

Postby Kelly » Mon Jan 08, 2007 9:48 am

I have been often thought to be rude due to this handshake issue. The common practices in hand shaking deviate from the actual proper guidelines which are:

1. in social contexts, if you extend your hand to someone that is older than you, this is not appropriate. The older person is supposed to offer their hand first. So I wait (not too many years left for me to have to worry about this one).

2. if one person is female, one is always supposed to wait for the female to extend her hand.

So what if the pair is an older man and a younger female? I go for status and wait for the older/higher status person to offer independent of gender. But when I get a proper gent on the other side, it gets complicated, he's waiting on me and I'm waiting on him. So my guide line is if the older gent is wearing polished shoes (a rough and easy measure of someone's social view), I figure they have the same type of social expectations I have and I extend my hand. This is not a problem with most scientists particularly with Americans (no offense intended). It is somewhat difficult for people from non-US cultures to navigate in our world. They probably know the proper social practices better than most Americans. However, our practices in operations are a werid mixture of what they are supposed to be and what they have "evolved" into on a day to day basis. Very confusing.

3. I had a little confusing thing happen just recently. My new Chair was an older gentleman. I had not been introduced to him. I had a question and so I asked his administrative assistant to relay my question. I got an email from him a little bit confused as to why I did not asked him directly. I explained that I was always taught that one did not communicate in writing (email) with someone senior or higher in status until they had been properly introduced (in person by someone to whom the senior person was known). It never dawned on me that my Chair would think I didn't want to communicate directly with him in general. So next faculty meeting, we were properly introduced and all is well.
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Handshakes

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jan 08, 2007 10:04 am

Kelly,

I've never heard of such rules, and have always extended my hand when meeting someone, regardless of age or sex. It's never been a bad habit. I believe that the person who extends their hand with a smile and eye contact is perceived here in the USA as a self-confident person, something that isn't bad to have going for you if you are in a job search,

Dave
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Handshakes

Postby SS » Mon Jan 08, 2007 10:23 am

I had heard the generational/gender rules about handshakes as well, but I thought that I was the only one! There don't seem to be that many people who follow these particular rules (and I think that's a good thing.)
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Handshakes

Postby Jack » Mon Jan 08, 2007 10:47 am

Having been raised by wolves in the woods, I'll have to defer to Kelly on the details of proper handshake etiquette, but I think that and the intercultural issues raised earlier just reinforce what I see as the fundamental silliness of using such things as criteria for evaluating people. Back when the vast majority of top scientists were proper English, or at least European, gentlemen the situation may have been different, and one might argue that having such agreed upon social conventions lubricated social interactions, but those days seem to be gone, with the last defenders manning crumbling castles with us barbarians at the gates. So my question is what is this firm handshake while looking the person in the eyes supposed to prove? Any con man worth the name will be able to fake that.

Cheers,
Russell
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Handshakes

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jan 08, 2007 11:04 am

Russell asks,"So my question is what is this firm handshake while looking the person in the eyes supposed to prove? Any con man worth the name will be able to fake that."

I'd say that a con man could fake a whole lot more than this. Fakers are generally people who can imitate not only self-confidence, but a whole lot more.

A good handshake, a wam smile, and eye contact . . . Mysterious, but powerful. What does it prove? Well, the point is, it doesn't "prove" anything. It just helps set the stage for someone's good first impression. And there does seem to be a lot of power in those first impressions after all.

Dave
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