“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” – Will Rogers
There is an abundance of reliable research that shows how people make accurate assessments within the first few seconds of meeting someone. There is also research that shows it takes four times more effort to make up for bad initial impression. And very few people are prepared to give anyone that chance, especially at interview.
To set things up from the start, here are several tips – all focused on helping you make the first few seconds of an interview work for you, rather than against you.
1. Put a smile on the dial:
Over the millennia, we humans have been pre-programmed to discern a genuine smile from a non-genuine one. The Duchenne smile is recognised as being natural as opposed to a false grin plonked on your face. Prior to going to meet an interviewer, it’s helpful to think of a situation that made you genuinely happy in the past. This will bring out the Duchenne smile and subtle signal to the interviewer that you are an approachable, engaging, and likeable person. The aim is to get Recruiters and Hiring Managers to spend the first few seconds thinking that you are warm and outgoing, confident, and professional, which can be achieved with a genuine smile.
2. No limp fish handshake. No bone crusher either:
There is nothing worse than having an awkward handshake. The limp fish conveys the impression and that you are a weak and unimpressive person. On the other hand, a bone crusher of a handshake can be misconstrued as falsely dominating.
Again there is an abundance of research from the body language experts that shows the subtlety in handshakes.
So, when you handshake a stranger the first time, look at them confidently in the eyes, with a smile on your face, and ideally with both hands meeting in the vertical position. If your hand is above theirs, it creates an uncomfortable body language signal that you are trying to dominate them. An even handshake is the vertical position.
What if there is more than one interviewer? In that case, make sure you greet each one separately, presenting yourself well and therefore creating a good first impression in the first few seconds.
3. Front of house rules:
Many job seekers forget how important the Receptionist is in the hiring process.
Receptionists have been known to be asked by the Recruiter or Hiring Manager how the job seeker behaved while waiting for the interviewer to appear.
Arrive for your interview a good ten minutes before you are due, so that you can freshen up and calm down.
Upon arriving at the Reception, walk confidently up to the “Chief Impressions Officer” and greet them with a confident hello. Then mention that you are here to see the interviewer, by giving the interviewer’s first and surname and the time you are expecting to have the appointment.
When asked to take a seat, do not play games on your iPhone, nor take a call that could be delayed.
Instead compose yourself, visualise the interview ahead, breathe out to calm any nerves, absorb the view or read a magazine or newspaper – relaxing.
It’s also very helpful to sit back and watch the dynamic in a Reception area. It will suggest to you the nature of the business and the culture of the organisation.
Confidently greeting the Receptionist will create a positive impression in the first few seconds with them. In turn, sitting back and noticing what you notice will be your first impressions of your own fit with your prospective employer.
4. Waffle and silence fillers:
From the get-go, confidently introduce yourself to the interviewer along the lines of “Hi, I am Jack”. After they introduce themselves you can simply say something like “It’s really nice to meet you.”
By doing so, it makes a positive impression in the first few seconds and allows for a somewhat easy conversation to start taking place. As tempting as it is, do not waffle on about anything that might be just filling silence such as talking about the weather or commenting about the office.
Again by building a friendly, but uncontentious bridge from the start, you’re creating a positive first impression in the first few seconds.
5. The eyes have it:
Body language and experts say that people seem to be rude, nervous, shy or even untrustworthy if they don’t make eye contact. It can’t be understated how vital good eye contact is when creating good first impressions. As you are smiling and shaking hands confidently, make sure that you naturally look at the Recruiter or Hiring Manager in the eyes and introduce yourself. Try to hold the interviewer’s eyes initially and then during the interview, even more engagingly. If there are multiple interviewers, aim to hold each interviewers’ eyes for several seconds at a time so that you create a positive impressions with each and everyone of them.
6. Dress smart and smartly:
Each organisation has its own dress style. So that you create a positive impression in the first few seconds, it’s really helpful to do some prior research on what the organisation values by way of dress codes. Even if the company allows casual dress, it’s probably a smart idea to dress a little smarter for your interview. But not so much as to show that you are too different from the ‘tribe’ you are seeking to join.
From a neurolinguistic programming point-of-view, I often advise people to come in with a jacket and to take it off, if and only if, the interviewer is wearing shirt sleeves or a blouse. If they are wearing a jacket, and you do not have one, it’s very hard to match/pace interviewer. Better to dress down at interview, than being unable to ‘dress upwards’.
7. Kindly take a seat:
It’s good etiquette to wait until the interviewer shows you where they planned that you sit. So that you make a positive impression in the first few seconds, let the interviewer direct you; or if you were a little more confident in the first few seconds confidently ask the interview where they would like you to sit.
If there are multiple interviewers, it’s important that you make positive impressions with all of them. You many need to reposition your chair. In the first few seconds of the interview, feel comfortable in suggesting something like: “I’d really like to see you all and so, would you mind me moving my chair?” It’s unlikely anyone will object. Then with some confidence, and with the help of one of the interview panel, ask where they suggest that might be.
A lot of this may seem obvious. But I have seen even the most senior executives blow an interview and create bad first impressions by breaching one or more of the points above.
So, to create positive first impressions in the first few seconds of your interview, put a smile on the dial, shake hands confidently, remember the importance of the Receptionist, confidently introduce yourself, dress to the office standards, and sit where invited to do so.
By doing so, the first impressions you create with your interviewer will be positive ones. Good luck.
Please share your stories and experiences of interviews that went well or badly in the comments below.
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