The charisma edge: 7 tips for job seekers to differentiate themselves from others

Cynthia Burnham of San Diego has a unique profession: charisma coach. A veteran of Wall Street firms and Fortune 500 corporations, she is hired by companies across America to add polish their executives.

“Charisma is the differentiator for any person who wants to sell anything – ideas, products or themselves,” says Burnham, the author of “The Charisma Edge: A How-to Guide for Turning On Your Leadership Power.”

“Your positive, confident, personal presence — your charisma — can be the deciding factor that gets you the job you want,” she adds.

Burnham shares seven tips to help job seekers be more charismatic on their next job interview:

Pause before answering. Don’t be in such a hurry. Train yourself to take a breath before answering anything. The small space of one breath will allow people to catch up to you, and will give your brain time to come up with the best answer, and will make you look thoughtful even if all you’ve really done is breathe.

  1.  Stand up straight. “It seems so simple, but it is amazing to me how many people ignore this important advice,” says Burnham. “We haven’t had a President who was shorter than average since the five-foot-seven-inch William McKinley, in 1896. (Ironically, a mountain was named after him.)”  Taller is seen as smarter, more confident, and more credible around the world. Because of the way we are wired neurologically, standing up straight also makes you feel more self-assured, calm and in control, great ways to go into a sales call.

  2. Practice your handshake. Think you have a great handshake? How do you know? This is one of the only ways you can connect physically with businesspeople, and it’s very powerful. Research shows interviewers choose people with better handshakes. Ask your friends, neighbors and co-workers to help you find a good pressure and appropriate grip.

  3. Hold eye contact one extra eyelash. We break eye contact when we feel connection kick in. When you feel the “click,” wait a tiny instant – perhaps only an extra tenth of a second –then break way. Do this especially when shaking hands or meeting someone for the first time.

  4. Lower the pitch (not volume) of your voice. Both men and women are perceived as more credible, compelling – and pleasant – when they have low, relaxed voices.

  5. Avoid chopping gestures. Whole arm karate chop gestures can psychologically “cut up” the space between you and your interviewer in an aggressive way.

  6. Reduce extraneous nodding. Sometimes we undermine how powerful and in focus we are by nodding like a bobble-head doll. Nod once or twice with a smile of agreement. But find your still center and stay there.

A bonus tip from Burnham is to be willing to laugh: “Shared laughter connects us with others. Don’t be afraid to laugh genuinely with your interviewers.”

Cynthia Burnham, MBA, BCC is a leadership consultant, former Wall Street SVP, and author of “The Charisma Edge,” teaches how to be confident, powerful and charismatic based on lessons learned during 30+ years of highly-successful corporate and independent business experience. She holds an MBA from UCLA, and is a Board Certified Coach. Burnham is an instructor for UC San Diego Extension.

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