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YOUTH VIEW: First impressions and ‘fitting in’

Job candidates can be judged by their handshake
Job candidates can be judged by their handshake

Like most people of my age, I love to have some cash in my pocket. Naturally, I ask the internet on how to succeed in a job interview. Whilst exploring Google I discovered a recent case-study by the employment company Monster. It concluded that ‘over half of employers judge a candidate based on the firmness of their handshake’.

It’s odd that a tiny gesture can become such an influence when deciding whether you get the job or not. I find this intriguing. How can these small details become so pivotal in deciding someone’s career path?

The most common answer would probably be on these lines: “It shows that you’re eager and confident, which is what employers are looking for”.

If anything is to be learnt from this study it’s that body language is vital when creating a first impression and that by applying this knowledge, you can easily impress your interviewer.

An interview is a specific situation. You can readily control the first impression you make. Alternatively, it takes a lot less time to form an opinion when it comes to less formal situations, such as approaching a stranger in town. Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov discovered that it requires only a tenth of a second to judge or make an impact on someone. The time after this allows us to develop certainty in that judgement.

We live in times where these details matter, some of which are much smaller than a handshake. Willis and Todorov also concluded that the more predominant factors that make up a first impression are facial features, body shape and clothing.

Many of my generation have a common goal – to fit in. First impressions play a significant role, so we go out of our way to create a good one. But when you’re young, being able to shake someone’s hand with the right degree of firmness doesn’t bring us any closer to that goal. So what happens when the pressure of fitting in becomes too much? We begin to lie to ourselves.

This raises a sense of concern. When you pretend to be what you aren’t on a daily basis, it becomes instinctive in order to fit in, becoming a disguise to blend with the majority. This constant routine will inevitably see your individuality begin to diminish.

This instinct is already practised online. We may end up choosing particular pictures to look better or using false or exaggerated information to impress others.

We are already a generation of pretenders behind the screen; we can’t let this apply to real life. This cycle of judging others and to impress others must be broken.

This epidemic is developing into an identity crisis, where the younger generation is restricted by a tenth of a second, causing them to act differently to who they are.

By sticking to this cycle of lying to each other we risk no longer being a generation of individuals, but instead pretenders – pretending not just to other people, but also to ourselves.

-- Michael Wyatt is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds


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