You know the old cliché, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression and no-where is it more important than at an interview.

In fact if the research is correct people make a judgement in seconds – so on the way from reception to the interview room that person may have already made a decision about you before you’ve even been asked a question!!

Not everyone that interviews is qualified and trained in making objective hiring decisions – some managers have learnt from their manager, who in turn learnt from their manager.  Therefore, both good techniques and poor practices can be passed down the organisations management hierarchy.

What does this mean for you the candidate?  This means that unfortunately snap judgement are still made about candidates and that’s why being aware of what makes a good first impression will help you take control and gain an advantage in those important first few seconds.

Take a look at the different factors below that contribute to making a good first impression.

The Meet & Greet

It’s natural for the nerves to really kick in when you are sitting in reception waiting for the interviewers to come and collect you.  You should have done all your research and preparation before arriving – the reception or waiting room is not the place to start getting out your folder and spreading out your notes across the comfy sofas.  This looks as if you’ve left your preparation to the last minute (regardless whether you have or not), this is the impression it will give to the interviewer.

Spend the time in reception thinking positive thoughts and preparing yourself mentally to marketing the value you can bring to the organisation.  Spend the time observing the corporate culture of the organisation.  Remember you are making a decision about the organisation as well – is this a place you want to spend lots of time?  Did you get a warm welcome when you arrived in reception?  How happy do people look when they arrive for work?

Be sure to be ready to meet and greet the interviewer and walk straight to the interview room without any additional fuss.  It will help you calm your nerves if you don’t have to worry about picking up papers, bags, coat, umbrella etc…

The Handshake

They say your handshake is one of the most important factors to contribute to making a good first impression.  There are a few rules to consider when you are conducting a good handshake in business.

Firstly, make sure you wait for the interviewer to offer their hand.  If the interviewer is not expecting you to shake hands or they’re simply not ready to shake hands, it will take them by surprise and may end up in an embarrassing or awkward fumble rather than a good handshake.

When the interviewer does offer the handshake make sure you maintain good eye contact and you may want to say “nice to meet you” at the same time.

A good firm handshake will only last a few seconds and only needs to be two or three up and down movements.  Make sure you release that handshake when the interviewer does – holding on to a handshake for longer will not feel comfortable for the other person.

The Dress Code

How you dress will have a huge impact on someone’s first impression of you.  If you are applying to work in a corporate environment you’ll need to dress appropriately.  The dress code is likely to be smart business entire and you should aim to mirror the same dress code in the interview – if not smarter.

Make sure you are looking at your best – well groomed, neat, tidy and fresh.  Don’t overdo the perfume or aftershave – you’ll leave a lasting impression but not because of your competencies!!

A conservative look is appropriate for an interview – dark blue, grey or black are all acceptable colours to wear during the interview process.  You don’t want your clothes to speak louder than your skills, knowledge and experience.  Don’t over accessorise or be overly fashionable (unless you are applying for a job in the fashion industry!!).  Keep your choice of clothes natural but smart.

Do you have a favourite or lucky outfit you always wear at interviews?

Communication & Presentation

How you communicate and present yourself in the early stages of the interview will demonstrate your professionalism, integrity and help you build a longer lasting impression.

Communication and presentation is not just about the words you use – it’s about your non-verbal body language (eye contact, posture, gestures etc.) and your listening skills.

Ensure you listen very carefully to the questions and any instructions during the interview process.  Some candidates can be so eager to share everything they’ve done and try to shoe-horn pre-prepared answers into any question that they forget to listen to the actual question.

This won’t help you land the job and will demonstrate poor listening skills – be careful you are demonstrating behaviours that will lead to a good match rather than leading to a “Thanks but no thanks”!

Try to maintain a good posture throughout the interview and don’t fidget or tap fingers or pen on the table.  It will distract the interviewer from the information you are sharing.

Respect & Manners 

Do you remember when you were a child going to your friend’s birthday parties?  Do you remember your parents saying “Don’t forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’” It’s so simple and yet it’s easy to forget when you are under pressure and very nervous.  All you can think about is what questions are going to be asked!!

Allow the interviewer to manage the process of the interview – that’s one thing that’s not your responsibility.  The interviewer’s job is to manage the questions, make notes on your answers, observe behaviours throughout the interview and open and close the interview.  It’s also their job to manage the time – so no need to keep looking at your watch.  You just need to concentrate on listening to the questions and answering appropriately.

Tell us how you have made a good first impression?