That Important First Impression
You did your research. You’ve looked over the notes on the job and company. As you approach the entrance to the building, you feel those familiar butterflies stirring in your stomach. You enter and the receptionist greets you. He directs you to the interview.
Within five minutes– or less– the interviewer will decide whether or not you are a likely choice for the job. How can this be?
Think about what you do when you meet someone new. You get a feeling or a first impression of that person. You sense whether or not you are going to hit it off. Interviewers do the same thing.
The first impression you make comes from your:
- Initial greeting
Based upon these, the interviewer decides whether or not you are likely to be right for the job. You will then be interviewed in a way that supports that belief. If the interviewer has a favorable first impression, she will ask questions that bring out your strong points and reasons to hire you. If the first impression is not favorable, the interview will be a rocky road. And remember: You only have one chance to make a good first impression.
Fortunately, it’s not that hard to develop habits that help you make a positive first impression. Let’s look at how you can do this. Let’s look at initial greeting, posture, and appearance.
This is easy. All you have to do is:
- Make eye contact
- Offer a firm but gentle handshake
- Call the interviewer by name (If you don’t know the name when you arrive, ask the receptionist before the interview.)
Practice these four steps until they feel natural. Look in the mirror and see how you smile. Practice walking across a room, making eye contact, and extending your hand in greeting. Practice saying the interviewer’s name correctly. This will help you feel less nervous and that adds to your first impression, too.
Walk into your interview with your head up, standing tall. Think, “I’m excited about being here. I am making this the best interview I can.” Remember that you have something of value that this employer needs–your leadership skills, attitudes, and results produced.
Try to seat yourself so that there is nothing between you and the interviewer. A desk, for instance, can become a barrier to communication. When you sit, take a moment to relax yourself:
- Take a deep breath and let it out slowly and quietly
- Look around you
- Study the interviewer’s office
What do you see? Are there pictures, awards, diplomas, or other things that you feel comfortable commenting on? Do so as a first step, an “icebreaker,” in meeting the interviewer.
Be relaxed in sitting, but don’t slouch. Be aware of your body and what it is doing. Are you tapping your foot, wringing your hands, rubbing your nose, yawning? These are all signs of being nervous and you can control them.
Lean forward in your chair as you speak. Let your excitement come out. Nod your head and maintain eye contact as you listen to the interviewer.
You should practice all of these posture techniques.
Primarily, you need to know what is worn in the industry or company in which you want to work. Visit places that hire people who do what you want to do. See how the employees dress. Notice hairstyles, and whether there are beards, mustaches, or accessories like bracelets and earrings. Are the outfits sporty or conservative? Each company has certain written or unwritten dress codes. Your interview outfit should match these standards and even be one step above them.
Hundreds of books have been written about interview clothing. Take a look at a few of them at the library.