by Harvey Deutschendorf
We’ve all heard about how important it is to make a great first impression. Whether it is a job interview, or meeting someone for the first time that we may want to date, first impressions are crucial. If we make the right one, we are well on our way. If not, we put ourselves in a very deep hole that it will take a lot of work and effort to get out of. While it is commonly believed that we make our first impressions of people within the first 30 seconds, studies indicate that it might happen much faster. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/2006/july-06/how-many-seconds-to-a-first-impression.html
While first impressions are important in all encounters that may alter our lives, they are most crucial during interviews. When we do make a good first impression, the interviewers may overlook some of our shortcomings during the conversation; but if left with a negative impression, we will be struggling to overcome this the entire time.
Here are some tips for increasing your chances of making that crucial and best first impression before an interview.
Practice beforehand and get feedback
While it may seem like a waste of time for those who feel they come confident and polished, practicing and receiving feedback prior is a great way to prepare. We are seldom good judges of the firmness of our handshake, our postures, eye contact and dress. Find a family member or friend who will give you honest and reliable feedback and do a dry run with them. Practice everything from the initial handshake, to your posture to dressing like you would for the interview. Not only will this help you become more aware as you go into the interview, it will give you the confidence in knowing that you are likely more prepared than anyone else who will be interviewed.
Show up early but not too early
Approximately fifteen minutes is about the right amount of time to arrive before the scheduled interview appointment. This allows you to collect your thoughts, go to the washroom, to make sure you look okay and rehearse the major parts of the interview in your mind. Arriving too early could increase your anxiety while waiting and you may look desperate for the job.
Carry out a practice run of meeting your interviewers with the receptionist
When meeting the receptionist, act like he or she is the person who will be interviewing you. Not only will it increase your confidence but the receptionist might actually be part of your interview. Often those conducting interviews will ask the receptionist for their impression of you. It could be seen as a more authentic way that you are with people as opposed to the interview where it is expected that you will be acting out the behaviour they want to see.
Have everything ready to go into the interview
Dropping items or having the interviewer wait while you fumble to get your belongings in order will not leave a good impression. Make sure you have everything in order, firmly in hand and are ready to follow the interviewer without any hesitation. Anyone with military training will be very aware of the importance of being absolutely ready when called.
Good posture, a firm handshake and your best authentic face
While posture should be straight, it should also be relaxed and not look forced or wooden. In other words, it should look natural on you. If you have a condition that prevents you from standing up straight, don’t try to force yourself to do so. The handshake should be firm but not so hard that the interviewer fears you will crush their hand. A forced smile is worse than just putting on your happiest and most pleasant neutral face. While you should always do your best, forcing what is unnatural can portray you as insincere and inauthentic.
Ask where you should sit, if there is a choice
Often there will be a number of chairs giving you a choice of where you to sit. Never assume that you have a choice but ask where they would like you to sit. While it might be perfectly okay to plop yourself down in any empty chair, this is not the time and place to take anything for granted. Asking shows consideration for others and a willingness to ask questions when you may be unsure. Simply sitting down in a chair of your choice may be misconstrued as cockiness or arrogance on your part.
Make eye contact with everyone on the interview panel
When introduced to the other members of the interview panel, remember the firm handshake and to hold eye contact for several seconds or until they look away. This is their initial impression of you and is just as important as the person who met you in the reception area.
Putting it all together
The first few moments of an interview are potentially a life changing juncture. The time and effort you spend preparing for occasions like this, may be the most valuable time that you expend. Don’t short change yourself or leave anything to chance. Be prepared and the interview will start off well, giving yourself the best opportunity for a successful outcome.
Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, internationally published author and speaker. To take the EI Quiz go to theotherkindofsmart.com. His book THE OTHER KIND OF SMART, Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success has been published in 4 languages. Harvey writes for FAST COMPANY and has a monthly column with HRPROFESSIONALS MAGAZINE. You can follow him on Twitter @theeiguy.