Making first impressions count is vital when looking for a new role. Before they meet you most employers will take have built a picture of you from a variety of sources. They will have looked at your CV and probably your LinkedIn profile. They may have received a summary from a recruitment agent. Of course they will take everything into account before they decide on who to hire – your experience, potential, cultural fit and so on. But the interview is the key to landing the role.
Whether it lasts 30 mins or 2 hours, you should not under estimate the importance of the first impression you make. However objective the selection process is, human beings tend to make quick judgements when they meet people so it is important you make a great first impression. By doing this, you get a head start before the real questions even begin.
Here are my five top tips to making first impressions count:
Arrive in good shape
Plan what you’re going to wear and get it ready the night before. Even if there is only the slightest chance of rain, make sure you are prepared. The more you plan, the more relaxed you’ll feel on the day. And it may sound obvious, but make sure you know where you’re going. Have you double-checked the address? Plan your route. If you’re driving, is there parking? And give yourself plenty of time, especially if you’re travelling on public transport. Allow for at least one bus or train to be cancelled. It’s always good to grab a coffee or a water before you go in. This will give you a chance to calm down and think about the interview ahead. Before you leave, go to the loos to check how you look.
An interview is a performance. And if you think about it, performers always warm up before a big event. Actors and singers will tell you that they warm their focal chords before they go on stage and there’s a very good reason for this. Stress and nerves cause the muscles in the body to tighten and this includes the vocal chords. It’s why people often cough and splutter when they are nervous. You can avoid this by warming up your vocal chords before you arrive for your interview. Choose your favourite tongue twister and repeat it out loud. Don’t worry about looking odd. I remember walking up and down Wimbledon High Street one morning saying, “Ken Dodd’s Dog’s Deaf” out loud. You’d be surprised how few looks I got!
Prepare for ‘small talk’
Treat everybody as though they are interviewing you. From the receptionist to the person who picks you up in reception. It’s worth remembering that the person who meets you in reception could well be your interviewer. Be polite and positive to everybody you meet. Don’t, for example, talk about the terrible journey you’ve had or how difficult the building was to find, even if it’s all true. Don’t huff and puff if you have to wait at reception to be signed in. You must set out to impress everyone so think about your ‘small talk’ before you arrive. The questions you’ll ask on the way to the interview room.
The dreaded hand shake
This is a case of ‘not too hard and not too soft’. Getting the balance right is important. Some people think the firmer the better because it shows self-confidence. Whether that’s true or not, you don’t want to crush your interviewer’s fingers before they’ve asked their first question. Equally, a ‘lifeless’ hand is not a pleasant experience for the recipient. If you’re in any doubt, practice with friends or family.
Owning the space
When you enter the interview room you’ll probably be shown where to sit. If not, ask. Make sure you settle yourself. Get your CV, notepad and pen out. If you’re offered water, take it. If you’re offered tea or coffee, ask for water instead. It is much easier to sip water during an interview than drink tea or coffee and it will be much more helpful in keeping you lubricated – a dry mouth is another symptom of nerves. Your interviewer(s) will be looking at you as well as listening to you so remember posture will have an impact. Sit up and straight and don’t fidget. Oh, and one final point, make sure your phone is switched off.
‘Making first impressions count?’ was written by Mike Burgneay, MD Chiumento Consulting. If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future advice and musings on the world of work.