Ten Simple Ways to Rise Above the Competition- advice from Communications Consultant and Career Expert, Mark Jeffries. At a time when unemployment rates have soared to near record highs, and particularly affecting men, job seekers and employees need to work harder to impress both during job interviews and within the workplace. Mark Jeffries, career expert and author of “What’s up with your Handshake,” believes exuding, not forcing, confidence can be a key differentiator. Following is his advice about how to project confidence and gain a competitive advantage.

In Preparation
Whether you’re preparing for an interview or a big client meeting, think of this chain reaction: when you look good, you feel good; when you feel good, you’re confident.

Dress like the people above you: People always feel most comfortable around people who are just like them. If you want a pay raise, promotion, job or a big new business win, align yourself with your decision makers in any way you can. Speak like them, connect with them and dress like them. If you share the same goals, knowledge and interests, you are a shoe-in.

Great grooming: A recent survey of HR professionals found that if you look unkempt, a majority will assume you lack professionalism (71%). And when it comes to shaving, one out of four HR professionals (25%) believe facial stubble is the biggest red flag when meeting a candidate for the first time.

Wear your “lucky clothes:” We all have pieces of clothing that we consider “lucky,” but they are really just items that make us look good. When you know you look good, your raised levels of confidence lead to better results. The key takeaway? It pays to look great.

The Big Event
Success during a job interview, client meeting or important conversation with a boss is all about making other people feel good about their interaction with you. Here’s some advice to help you appear confident and interested, and ultimately stand out from the competition.

Perfect your Handshake: A handshake is a method for reading other people and communicating a message – it can make or break an introduction. Make sure you make eye-contact while avoiding the biggest handshake mistakes:

The Early Handshake” – When someone goes to shake just the fingers. Handshakes are a sign of confidence, so embrace the entire hand firmly.

The Long Handshake” – This is where, despite the other person trying to let go, you keep on shaking beyond the accepted norm. This implies that you’re focused on yourself and your own agenda because you have not taken cues from the other person’s desire to end the handshake. In most circumstances, a two-second handshake is sufficient.

Accept a business card with interest: When someone gives you their card, don’t immediately put it in your pocket. Take a moment to look at it and say something in response. This shows your respect for and interest in the individual.

Sit forward: It comes naturally for a lot of men to sit back and relax. Men who lean back or relax in their chair are displaying either Alpha Male status or total disinterest. By sitting forward, you exude enthusiasm.

Monitor your nods: People love to talk so let them say as much as they want and indicate your level of understanding and interest by nodding. You should aim to nod about 6 or 7 times a minute when someone is talking to you. This also works when you are the one delivering the pitch—whether it’s about yourself or your big ideas. If you initiate a nod while speaking, you can encourage agreement from whomever you’re speaking with.

Use the lighthouse technique: When you’re part of any meeting or interview, make sure that you spread your eye contact around the whole table to connect with everyone. This encourages approval, makes people feel included and keeps them attentive.

Remember the two R’s – Recall and Reward: Repeat what your interviewer, boss, or client has said to you in your own words. It shows that you care enough to listen and you have the intelligence to “translate.” In follow up e-mails, once again demonstrate that you have recalled elements of the conversation. This rewards their communications skills and makes you look good.

The Follow Through
Follow-up with value. Now that they are intrigued, tell them you’ll be following-up with them—whether it is with a phone call, text message, or e-mail—with the promise that you’ll be in touch with something of value for them. Be sure to deliver on that promise. This is called an “anchor-point,” leave as many behind as you can – it keeps the connection alive.

About Mark Jeffries
Former Merrill Lynch stockbroker Mark Jeffries has become a trusted adviser and communications consultant to some of the world’s largest and most successful corporations, agencies and partnerships. Dividing his time between The United States, Canada and Europe, Mark is invited to speak at and facilitate major corporate conventions, conferences and meetings. In May 2008, Mark published his first book titled “What’s up with your handshake,” an Amazon.com best seller in the Sales Skills category. It’s a toolbox of innovative communication ideas designed to grow your business success. Mark is also retained to coach many senior executives, CEOs, MDs, partners and sales teams, from clients across diverse industries and organizations including Ernst & Young, Motorola, PWC, Microsoft, and the United States Congress, among many others. Mark also appears regularly on The Today Show, Fox Business and BBC Television.