First impressions count

  | James Innes

First impressions are extremely important. Interviewers can reach a decision about a candidate very quickly, so make sure that you walk into that room as if you really want the job. Make a poor first impression and you might not be able to recover from it. How quickly do you sum up someone you’ve just met? It’s probably less than a couple of minutes. You never get a second chance to make a first impression!

You are literally on show from the moment you arrive at an employer’s premises. Your interview starts immediately – so try not to look like you’ve just arrived for your own execution! Walk confidently into the building, smile at the receptionist, introduce yourself and explain who it is that you’ve come to see and why.

As a top tip, always try and be as friendly with the receptionist or secretary you initially meet. They can often have a surprising amount of influence in an organisation, not least because they know absolutely everyone.

You will more than likely be asked to take a seat and wait for a few minutes in an office or waiting room whilst someone comes ‘down’ to meet you. Use the time to relax and try to compose yourself. If there is any corporate literature lying around, pick it and read it. It may get you into the right frame of mind and perhaps give you a few insights which you had missed during your research to date.

The most likely person to come and collect you is the interviewer themselves. However, don’t count on it. An assistant could easily be sent. Regardless, you should, of course, stand up the moment you are approached, move forwards to greet them, smile and deliver a decent handshake. They will introduce themselves and you will then know who you are dealing with. Even if it’s ‘just’ an assistant, follow the same rule as for receptionists – be nice to them!

On the way to the interview/meeting room it is normal to engage in a bit of light chat as to your health, your journey, the weather, the news headlines. Don’t let your nerves trick you into babbling. Just respond politely without going into too much detail. But do remember to speak up: a quiet little voice can have the same impact as a weak handshake.

An interviewer is much more likely to look favourably on a candidate with whom they feel they have developed a rapport, so try to be friendly without being overly familiar.

As you enter the interview room you will be invited to sit down. Take your seat, sit up straight and face the interviewer as if you are almost eager for the first question to be asked!

Remember that final impressions also count. At the end of the interview you will normally be escorted to the exit. Give the interviewer a final handshake, smile and leave with your head held high. You are literally on show until you are out of sight of the building, so resist the temptation to relax until you are well clear. If the stress of it was all too much for you, don’t immediately get your cigarettes out of your pocket and light up the moment you’re out of the door. And if you think you’ve done well then don’t perform a victory dance on the pavement! Avoid screeching excitedly at someone on your mobile phone. Basically, don’t do anything except get yourself away and out of sight as quickly and quietly as possible!

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