Week 9

9.01 - The Handshake

You are at a networking meeting, a job interview, or just meeting someone for the first time. Of course, you want to make a great first impression. Do you know that the basis of effective communication skills is the way to approach another individual as you first meet them?

Individuals from different cultures may be unsure how to greet someone in the American workplace. A former client from Spain assumed she should kiss the male who was going to interview her. Wasn’t it fortunate that this came up in our discussion before the interview?

Our handshake is critical when making a first impression and lasting impression. Should you squeeze hard to show your power? Should you pump the other person’s hand up and down with vigor? Or should you gently take the hand of the other person?

The firm and confident handshake meets the other person half-way and the hands meet web-to-web with equal pressure from each party. Your thumb should be facing upward as you reach out. You should make eye contact and smile as you shake the other person’s hand. Shake it approximately three times and then let go.

9.02 - Interviews

When interviewing for employment in the United States, one must be aware of American customs. I recently worked with an international professional who did not realize it would be inappropriate to kiss her interviewer on each cheek upon meeting. Many customs that are routine in one’s native country might be awkward in the USA. Not everyone realizes that a firm handshake is the preferred manner to greet someone, regardless of gender.

There are many nonverbal aspects to consider, particularly body language. Our first impression is delivered via visual signals. Vocal and verbal aspects of communication can enhance or sabotage that first image. The individual’s listening skills will directly influence the interviewer. Finally, hygiene, preparedness, and organization have an impact on the outcome of the job interview or any other social/business interchange. Here are some tips for the individual who is interviewing for a position in the USA.

Body Language

  • Smile when you meet the interviewer
  • Shake hands firmly (kissing is not appropriate in the American culture)
  • Hold your briefcase, coat, papers in your left hand, so you can easily shake hands
  • Use sincere facial expressions
  • Use appropriate eye contact
  • Walk with confidence and good posture
  • Maintain good posture while seated
  • Avoid crossing arms; keep your hands on your lap, on the arms of the chair, or on the table
  • Avoid fidgeting of hands, feet, pen, or any items on the desk
  • Do not play with your hair or jewelry
  • Avoid chewing gum

Vocal and Verbal Communication

  • Remember the interviewer’s name and use it during the interview
  • Make small talk and think of this as a conversation
  • Speak with proper vocal loudness
  • Speak slowly by pausing at appropriate points
  • Avoid “OK,” “um’s,” “like,” and other word fillers; use silence
  • Speak clearly and stress key words
  • Organize your responses
  • Follow TIES– Topic, Introduction, Examples, Summary
  • Listening Skills
  • Show active listening (eye contact, head nods, smile, lean toward the person speaking)
  • Avoid interrupting



  • Use perfume/cologne in moderation
  • Use deodorant, mouthwash, etc.
  • Freshen your breath if you just smoked a cigarette
  • Keep fingernails clean and manicured (polish is not necessary)
  • Keep hair clean and neat
  • Wear natural and minimal make-up


  • Have pen and paper available
  • Organize briefcase and notes
  • Wear jewelry that is not distracting
  • Turn off your cell phone

If you want 1:1 coaching for upcoming interviews, contact us

9.03 - Greetings and Closings

I have the wonderful opportunity to help many International Clergy achieve excellent communication skills. This includes everything from improving their pronunciation and teaching them the stress and intonation patterns of North American English, to learning American idioms and slang, improving comprehension, and increasing vocabulary.

We work on presentation skills, particularly as they relate to delivering homilies that are clear, engaging, motivating, and dynamic. Learning to use appropriate pausing and stress patterns can transform a boring homily that may put parisioners to sleep to one that is inspirational, energetic, and memorable!

Written communication is yet another area that can be addressed. I have found that many of the priests have difficulty determining the appropriateness of salutations or greetings and closings in letters and email. Their intentions are to express genuine warmth and sincerity, but they need to choose their words carefully to convey the appropriate meaning. In particular, the use of the word “love” should be used judiciously.

Greetings and closings can be formal, informal, or casual. The following are some tips to consider when writing emails or letters.

For Greetings

For greetings, “My loving teacher” woud not be appropriate; it sounds too intimate and this expression is reserved for family members (My loving daughter) or intimate partners (My loving husband). More appropriate greetings would be:

Formal: Dear Teacher, Dear (person’s name)

Informal: Hello (person’s name), Hi (person’s name), Greetings, The person’s name only (John,)

Casual: Hey (person’s name); this greeting has become more popular in emails and phone conversations. It would be best to avoid this greeting.

For Closings

For closings of a letter, “With love” or “love” are again closings that are reserved for intimate or very close relations and are not appropriate in a social or work-related situation. Here is a collection of proper choices for closings:

Formal: Kind regards, With kind personal regards, Warm regards, With warm regards, Best regards, Best wishes, With best wishes, Sincerely, Respectfully yours

Informal: My best, I wish you the best, All the best, With blessings, Have a blessed day, Bless you, Fondly, (reserved for situations when you know the person well and are conveying warm feelings), Fraternally, May God bless you

Casual: Cheers, Best

You can still express warmth and caring by using the above closing remarks. Again, the use of “love” conveys the correct emotion, but it may be interpreted in a different manner; it is best to avoid it.

Ready to get into more depth?

Sign-up for a public speaking webinar to learn more and have a more personalized experience.

Learn more about our Public Speaking Webinars