120 seconds. That’s how long it takes for an interviewer to decide whether they want to hire you or not. Your first impression sets the tone for the interview and generally, once that impression is set, it is usually cast in stone. Here are 6 very important tips to ensure you make a great first impression.
1) Amp up your Energy. Take a brisk walk a few minutes before going in so you have some kick in your walk and a bit of a glow in your eyes. Show that you are excited to be there and are a person they not only want to meet, but need to meet.
2) Use Eye contact to keep the focus on Why you are there. Look the interviewer right in the eye to make person-to-person contact, but don’t stare, it sends out a creepy vibe. Eye contact lets them know that you are engaged in the process and that you want to “Show not Tell”. SMILE. People instinctively react well to happy, smiling people.
3) Your Handshake can Make or Break You. Everyone knows that a dead-fish handshake is the kiss of death, as are sweaty palms (put baby powder in your pocket if you have to). We all know that a handshake is so important, have you tested yours? Try shaking a friend’s hand, both male and female and ask them for input on how your shake works. Women in particular tend to overcompensate and shake hands too hard. Men sometimes get amped up and go in for the bonecrusher – this is just as bad as the dead-fish as it makes people think you are trying to dominate them.
4) Dress appropriately. Dressing conservatively will NEVER hurt you in an interview situation. If you are not sure whether you should wear a tie or not (suit for women), try calling the receptionist for the company and ask about the general dress code, then go one notch higher. If it’s a Friday interview and the company is general or business casual, still dress as if it were a Monday morning, suit and tie for men and medium length or longer skirt for ladies or a suit. Stay conservative for this phase, you can add some of your personality through accessory choices, but don’t go too far “out there”.
DO NOT OVERDRESS. We’ve all probably heard about well-qualified executives who show up in a double-breasted suit, expensive tie and matching handkerchief. They make the potential boss feel like a slob and don’t get invited back for round two of interviewing.
5) Act Like an Employee of the Company from the Minute You Get Out of Your Car. Many hiring managers and interviewers will ask the receptionist, security team, even janitors what they thought of you. What did you read in the lobby? Did you interact with any current employees and how were those interactions? There are even firms who ask their receptionists if the candidate washed their hands after going to the bathroom (many of them can hear if the sink is on from the lobby). Think hidden camera or Reality TV so you can put your best foot forward.
6) Be Yourself, your Friendly Self. Strive to make the interview more like an interesting conversation. Employers hire people they like, so build rapport with the interviewer. Make sure that they know about you, but do your research and show them that you know about them as well. A well informed interviewee can break the ice much easier than one who is just going through the motions. It definitely pays off.
Practice these tips, remember your work-related PAR, CAR or STAR stories, be engaging and memorable in a good way and you will see a dramatic difference in how people respond to you.