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How to fake charisma

If you're going for any client-facing role in an investment bank, it will help if you have it. It will also help if you want to get promoted. And it will help if you're interviewing 20 times at Goldman Sachs to establish your fit likeability in the eyes of potential colleagues.

But what happens if you're not charismatic? What happens if you have the magnetism of a cucumber? Fortunately, this can be overcome. Here's how:

1) Imagine everyone's looking at you

This probably is the case if you're going into an interview, but it may be worth practicing in advance. In Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma, Nick Morgan says a belief that others are focusing on you leads to heightened awareness of your surroundings. This heightened awareness is a precursor to exuding charisma.

2) Adopt appropriate facial expressions

If you want to appear charismatic, you'll also need to appear open and engaged, not closed and defensive.

Morgan says there are four key components to an open facial expression: open eyes, raised eyebrows, nodding, and smiling.

Holding your eyebrows up is seen as inviting interaction. Nodding shows empathy and builds trust. Bill Clinton was a master at the latter.

3) Adopt appropriate body language

Body language needs to be open too. Morgan points out that people who aren't comfortable will use their hands and arms to protect their heart. Therefore, don't fold your arms, cross your hands, or adopt the so-called 'fig leaf' position by putting your hands in your crotch.

Do indicate just how open you are, by directing your hands towards the other person/interviewer.

4) Imagine you're somewhere enjoyable

The trouble with body language, says Morgan, is that it needs to be subconscious. If you try and control it consciously, you won't look charismatic; you will look weird.

To avoid this, he advises memorising and practising the kind of body language you adopt in relaxed situations at home, and overlaying this on a more challenging situation (eg. An interview), until you do it subconsciously.

5) Be passionate, or fake it

Charisma means passion. You may be passionate, but if you're not, there are tricks for faking it.

Morgan advises, 'telling an uncomfortable truth' (interview questions about past failures are ideal for this).

Equally, control your voice. Don't let it rise in tone towards the end of a sentence, do let it rise in pitch towards the middle of a sentence and drop back down at the end. The latter conveys passion. The former conveys annoyingness.

Passion also requires emotion. Before going into an important meeting/interview, Morgan says you need to focus on how you feel about it. If you feel (or can make yourself feel) genuinely excited about the opportunity and genuinely excited about the company, it will show.

6) Take a real interest in other people

The trouble with banking, says Graham Ward, an executive coach and former co-head of European equities at Goldman Sachs, is that there are a lot of people with excellent technical skills who are promoted into leadership positions, but who lack the charisma to pull it of. Ward says charisma can be learnt and that it's about developing a, "genuine interest in other people."

"You've got to start engaging," he urges.

A word of warning

Finally, it's worth noting that while charisma is often at a premium if your interviewer is American, it may not be if your interviewer is English.

"In my experience of coaching numerous senior investment bankers, US bankers tend to present themselves as more charismatic and extroverted and are surprised and perplexed when Brits take a different approach", says John Nicholson at business psychologists Nicholson McBride.

"By comparison, Brits like to come across as more cerebral, with a mixture of gravitas and humour," he adds.

Nicholson also cautions against exuding mammoth amounts of fake charisma during a job interview when you're not really like that on a daily basis. "If it's a one-off thing like a TV interview you can get away with it, but you're going to be hostage to fortune if you have to keep it up every day with new colleagues."

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Hu
    Human robot
    7 December 2010

    Wow poor interviewees.
    In a few years, they will be required to be half human half robot to succeed in entering this industry of masterminds.

  • Na
    Nathan
    24 November 2010

    Raising eyebrows in interviews????

    Again...utter tosh coming from the good editor of efinancial.
    If I want lessons on eyebrow raising I'd seek the grandmasters advice....Roger Moore's.

  • Mu
    Multi-talent
    24 November 2010

    Well, all actors you use it too. Not all of them are gifted with charisma. One example would be Shahrukh Khan (a blockbuster Indian Actor - sorry to most western readers as they probably wont be able to relate) - he was an average actor with very average looks and built but then mastered (or do i dare say copied it ...oh oh ) the "faking charisma" techniques and has risen to become the most highly paid actor in Bollywood.

  • NE
    NEILLO
    24 November 2010

    Before you learn how to fake charisma, you should learn to fake sincerity as I have done.

    Anyway, great article, very interesting - I got a lot out of it

  • gh
    gharandoyle
    24 November 2010

    Firstly I'd say that Charisma can't be faked, but if you have no charisma then this is probably good advice to get you a little further forwards. But ultimately, if you are a shy wilting violet, maybe investment banking isn't for you.

    @ Pablooba "blah blah", this advice is not INSTEAD OF HAVING A DECENT CV, its COMPLIMENTARY, a bit like wearing a tie with a suit...

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