You know the old cliché you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Nowhere is it more important to make a good first impression than at an interview. In fact, if the research is correct people make a judgement in seconds. So, on the way from reception to the interview room that person is already making decisions about you.
Not everyone involved in interviews is qualified and trained. Some managers have learnt from their manager, who in turn learnt from their manager. Therefore, both good techniques and poor practices can be passed down.
What does this mean for you the candidate? This means that unfortunately snap judgements are still made about candidates. That’s why being aware of what makes a good first impression will help you take control and gain an advantage in those important first few seconds. Take a look at the different factors below that contribute to making a good first impression.
The Meet & Greet
It’s natural to start getting nervous when sitting in reception waiting to be collected. You should have done all your research and preparation prior to the interview. The reception or waiting room is not the place for that last-minute prep. It may give the wrong impression.
Spend the time in reception thinking positive thoughts and preparing yourself mentally to marketing the value you can bring to the organisation. Use the time while you wait observing the corporate culture of the organisation. Remember you are making decisions about the organisation as well. Is this a place you want to spend lots of time? Did you get a warm welcome when you arrived in reception? How happy do people look when they arrive for work?
Be sure to be ready to meet and greet the interviewer and walk straight to the interview room without any additional fuss. It will help you calm your nerves if you don’t have to worry about picking up papers, bags, coat, umbrella etc…
How your handshake can help to make a first impression
They say your handshake is one of the most important factors to contribute to making a good first impression. There are a few rules to consider when you are conducting a good handshake.
Wait for the interviewer to offer their hand first. If the interviewer is not expecting you to shake hands or they’re simply not ready to shake hands, it will take them by surprise. It may even end up in an embarrassing or awkward fumble rather than a good handshake.
When the interviewer does offer the handshake make sure you maintain good eye contact and you may want to say “nice to meet you” at the same time. A good firm handshake will only last a few seconds and only needs to be two or three up and down movements. Make sure you release that handshake when the interviewer does. Holding on to a handshake for longer will not feel comfortable for the other person.
The Dress Code
How you dress will have a huge impact on someone’s first impression of you. If you are applying to work in a corporate environment you’ll need to dress appropriately. The dress code is likely to be smart business entire. Aim to mirror the same dress code in the interview. Make sure you are looking at your best. Be well groomed, neat, tidy and fresh. Don’t overdo the perfume or aftershave.
A conservative look is appropriate for an interview, dark blue, grey or black are all acceptable colours to wear during the interview process. You don’t want your clothes to speak louder than your skills, knowledge and experience.
Don’t over accessorise or be overly fashionable (unless you are applying for a job in the fashion industry!). Keep your choice of clothes classic, neutral and smart.
Communication and Presentation
How you communicate and present yourself in the early stages of the interview will demonstrate your professionalism, integrity and help you build a longer lasting impression. Communication and presentation are not just about the words you use. It’s about your non-verbal body language (eye contact, posture, gestures etc.) and your listening skills.
Ensure you listen very carefully to the questions and any instructions during the interview process. Some candidates can be so eager to share everything they’ve done and try to shoe-horn pre-prepared answers into any question that they forget to listen to the actual question. This won’t help you land the job and will demonstrate poor listening skills.
Be careful you are demonstrating behaviours that will lead to a good match rather than leading to a “Thanks but no thanks”. Try to maintain a good posture throughout the interview and don’t fidget or tap fingers or pen on the table. It will distract the interviewer from the information you are sharing.
Make a good first impression with good manners and respect
Remembering to say please and thank you before and after the interview shows professionalism. Don’t interrupt the interviewer. Allow the interviewer to manage the process of the interview. That’s not your responsibility. The interviewer’s job is to manage the questions, make notes on your answers, observe behaviours throughout the interview and open and close the interview.
It’s also their job to manage the time. So, don’t keep checking your watch. Make sure that your mobile phone is turned off and doesn’t cause any embarrassing interruptions. You can just concentrate on listening to the questions and answering appropriately.
Allow yourself plenty of time for the interview. You don’t want to be rushing off. Particularly if the interview goes well and you get offered a tour of the workplace.