How To Create The Best First Impression At Interview
Interview coming up? Yikes. The thought of sitting in front of a row of strangers, who are only present to judge our suitability, can leave us feeling vulnerable and anxious. Almost everyone feels nervous before an interview, and it is no surprise, when they are a pretty big deal.
Interviews can be a gateway to new opportunities, and it takes a great deal of courage to go after your goals, so we at MSR want to give you this complete guide to interviewing. These tips will help you to relax and be yourself when you are feeling the heat, giving you the best possible chance of success.
Sure, some things are out of our hands. We can’t prepare for every potential question, we don’t generally know what the interviewer is going to be like, or what sort of mood they will be in. However, there are some things that we can control, and this is what we are going to cover in this article. All of the details from how we dress, to our body language and everything in between.
It takes a mere 7 seconds for someone to develop a first impression about you! So that is your window of opportunity to make it a good one. What can you really do in 7 seconds? Reel off your hobbies? I doubt that would work.
What you can do, is exude an air of relaxed, professional confidence, simply by arriving on time, looking the part, making eye contact, smiling and shaking hands. It could be that these 7 seconds are the most important of the entire interview. Let’s break them down.
Arriving on time is an absolute must, and something that doesn’t happen by chance. Guarantee that you will be punctual by preparing fully beforehand. An ideal morning before an interview would look like this:
- Wake on time, shower and groom
- Take time to eat a good breakfast
- Review your notes on the company and role (that you have already researched in advance)
- Brush teeth carefully
- Dress professionally
- Pack extra copies of your resume as well as a pen and paper to jot down any important information.
- Leave in plenty of time to allow for all eventualities with public transport and traffic
- Don’t eat or smoke right before you arrive
Real life doesn’t always allow for perfect examples, so the most important thing of all is to do what it takes to arrive early for the interview and prepare in advance. Upon your initial arrival, make sure that you are friendly, warm and polite to everyone that you come into contact with, including the cleaning staff, receptionist and any other interviewee.
All of this happens behind the scenes, but sets the stage for the 7 second impression, so it is vital that you take this on board.
Looking The Part
You may have noticed that we skipped over a very important part of the pre-interview prep in the perfect morning checklist – ‘dress professionally.’
Of course we weren’t going to leave it there, so this section is dedicated to the conundrum of ‘what to wear to an interview’. A big part of the first impression that you create when meeting your potential employer lies in the attire you have selected. It might be useful to do some research into the culture of the organization when it comes to dress code before you plan your outfit. But in general, there are rules that should be adhered to.
Your aim should be to look professional, sophisticated, neat and tidy. This means of course that anything baggy or slouchy is a no-go. You want to look crisp, so clothes should be pristine and pressed carefully.
Great color choices are black, grey or – but there is an ultimate color according to psychologists…..navy blue. It apparently sends out the message that you are credible and trustworthy, both things that you want to communicate to a potential employer. As Lisa Johnson Mandell of AOL jobs tells us:
“Studies show that navy blue is the best color for a suit to wear to a job interview, because it inspires confidence. You are more likely to get the job when you wear navy blue to an interview than any other color.”
Red should be avoided, as it is considered an emotive ‘power color’, giving a message that you can be domineering and rebellious. Eeek.
Of course if you are interviewing for a role in a creative position feel free to stretch these boundaries a little, the artist in you should guide you here!
Fit Is Everything
Be certain that your outfit is right for your body type and fits correctly. Nothing will damage your first impression more than fiddling with a bra strap or a pair of unruly knickers! When it comes to shirts, you want to avoid gaping at all costs. Plus, remember, sitting down shouldn’t feel uncomfortable. The fact is, you will be able to relax and project the best image of yourself if you are dressed in clothes that flatter your shape and fit you properly. Check out MSR body shape rules to find out all you need to know about this!
A jacket will smarten up any ensemble, and a two or three piece (well fitting) suit combination, or blazer, blouse and skirt, are safe options for you to go for.
Skirt length should be a little below the knee and never shorter than above the knee, while blouses should be white, or any other light, neutral color. Pantyhose should be flawless and the correct color. The best choice of shoes is conservative, low-heels, ideally in a light color.
Go Easy On The Extras
Aim to keep accessories to a minimum as these can become quite distracting. The same goes for scent, so do not overpower yourself with perfume and definitely do not arrive with body odor.
Try to keep makeup to a minimum, opt for a natural ‘less in more’ look, with well-groomed, neat hair. Ensure that your nails are trimmed and tidy, and a final tip, please do not chew gum or have any other form of candy in your mouth.
So you have arrived, in plenty of time and are looking dapper. It is almost time for the 7 second countdown to begin. In this section we are going to look at the role of body language in your interview first impression.
Greet your employer by standing, smiling, maintaining good eye contact and offering a firm handshake. Some psychologists suggest that we should avoid direct eye contact, and instead go for direct face contact, where you shift your gaze naturally around the face of the person that you are conversing with. This will give the impression that you are interested and engaged in what they are saying.
Use your interviewer’s name when greeting them. It has been proven that people love the sound of their own name, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your potential employer and repeat their name often. When entering a room, do not sit immediately, but rather wait until offered a chair. It could be rather embarrassing if you sit in the wrong place and have to be asked to stand up and sit somewhere else. Even more embarrassing would be you accidentally sitting in your employer’s seat.
Once the 7 seconds first impression is complete, the next most critical time is the next 20 minutes. This is when decisions about interviewees tend to be made.
For this part of the interview be aware of your body language, and avoid giving off negative signs through behaviors such as slouching, talking too softly, looking off into the distance, playing with a pen, twirling your hair or touching your face excessively.
What you can do, is speak expressively and allow your passions to show. Use your hands while speaking, showing your open palms, which implies honesty. Move your hands naturally, but be aware of erratic nervous flapping.
It is great to nod your head while you are listening to your interviewer speak, keeping an open expression on your face. Sit straight, with your back against the chair, being sure not to slouch.
If you begin to feel stressed, make sure that you are breathing properly. Try placing your feet flat on the floor to help you feel grounded. This has been said to help with confidence, so that you can go ahead and answer any question that is thrown at you.
You can prepare well for an interview by practicing some questions that you may be asked. Remember to always sell yourself and talk about the types of benefits you will bring to the company. Speak openly and honestly regardless of how tough the question may be. Acting as though you have never failed or made mistakes is not realistic and your employer will see straight through it.
You can find many practice interview questions online, check out Quintcareers for some great examples.
Here are 3 from the site to get you thinking.
- Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
- Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
- Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
Taking the time to think through such practice questions is imperative to helping you to formulate responses on the fly.
At the end of the interview, you will usually be given a chance to ask questions yourself. Aim to always ask at least one question. You could try one of these:
- Can you describe a typical day for someone in this position?
- Can you describe the company’s characteristics in terms of management and philosophy?
- These types of questions show your employer that you are interested in the job.
At the end of your interview, thank each interviewer personally, or follow up by sending them emails thanking them for their time. Then all you can do is wait and hope for the best.
If it turns out that you didn’t get the job, don’t be too hard on yourself. It is always good to be practicing good habits when it comes to interviews. You know that you tried your best and can have no regrets. Of course, things may just go your way and you could be moving onto to new pastures. If that is the case, I know just the place for you to stock up on a new work closet!