In-person interviews and meetings rely on the first impression to create partnerships, ventures, and business deals. In our tech-driven and impersonal business world, first impressions count for a lot. These four first-impression tips will inform job seekers about what they can do to make sure the interview goes as smoothly as possible.
Your body language should exude confidence. Controlled confidence tiptoes between overconfidence and lack of confidence. Confidence begins with a strong handshake, a genuine smile, a relaxed posture, and an appropriate amount of eye contact.
A strong handshake is one that grasps firmly, but that doesn’t crush the other person’s hand. Don’t shake up and down rigorously. Don’t let go too quickly, but don’t let the handshake linger, either; it could be misconstrued as intrusive or inappropriate. Other than the handshake, physical contact with the interviewer should be restricted, especially if that interviewer is someone you don’t personally know.
A genuine smile is a small detail that makes the world of difference. People will make judgments about your personality and likeability based on the expressions you make, so it is important to practice your smile in front of a mirror. You don’t want to come off as cheesy or forced. If your smile isn’t as perfect as you want it to be, and you find that your smile is distracting or breaking your confidence, there are ways to correct that. Yellowed teeth can be whitened with whitening strips; over time, crooked teeth can be corrected with braces, Invisalign, etc.
When you move, and especially when you sit, you should be mindful of your posture. A tall stature that is open and relaxed will give a better impression than a hunched figure with crossed arms and legs. If you need practice, sit in front of a mirror and watch the difference in how you appear when you consciously make an effort to align your spine, keep your chin up, and relax your shoulders.
Appropriate eye contact means not staring at your shoes during any point of the interview. But it also doesn’t mean that you should never blink and never take your eyes off the interviewer. Staring is not strong eye contact. It is appropriate to watch your interviewer when he or she is speaking, but to include brief breaks in the eye contact. When it is your turn to speak, it is appropriate to break eye contact while you are thinking, then to reconnect it when you start speaking.
Showing confidence through body language won’t matter much if your attire is a mess. Create a visual first impressions by choosing an outfit that is appropriate for the job you are seeking, but that still expresses your personality. Select the right clothing for the right occasion through research. Clothing that could be categorized as “business casual” is almost always the safest option. The day before the meeting, choose your outfit. Make sure it is washed and dried and pressed. Choose any accessories carefully. Before leaving the house on the day of the meeting, give your outfit a glance over; remove distracting details such as lint, string, or hair. If you find stains or wrinkles, address them before you leave the house. Bring a back-up outfit to keep in your car in case of a disaster, such as spilling food or drink on your clothes.
Keep Emotions in Check
There is certainly a lot of pressure involved in interviews and meetings. Many interviewers know this, and want to see how you handle the stress of the occasion. This is why it’s important to take enough time to prepare yourself and your emotions before a meeting. Take the time to research common interview questions, and create strategic answers for yourself to memorize. Reread your resume, portfolio, or other documents you’ve prepared, and be ready to answer questions that might come up about the information presented there. This stage of preparation is key to coming into the interview or meeting in a relaxed mindset. If even after you have prepared, you still feel stressed, do all you can not to take it out on others and to remain calm and positive. Before your meeting, take a few moments to meditate and quiet your mind.
Speak and Listen
Before the meeting, silence your cell phone to minimize distractions. When you meet the interviewer, be considerate and grateful. Most importantly, be genuine. Listen very carefully to everything the interviewer says. Engage in conversation by mentioning relevant, work appropriate opinions in a normal and confident tone. Be prepared to talk about yourself; but also, be prepared to ask questions. Beforehand, prepare appropriate questions for the interviewer about themselves, the work they do, the history of the company, the kind of qualities they want in a candidate, and many other thoughtful questions. Remember, you’re not there just to find out if the interviewer thinks you’re right for the position; you’re also in the interview to find out if you want them as your employer. Use the interview as a tool to learn all that you can about the job and your potential new employer.
Reading this information is easy; but remembering it all and acting on it is not. Take the appropriate measures ahead of time in order to prepare for your future interviews. Double-check your resume, refine your posture and hygiene, prepare questions and answers, and above all, be confident. Apply this information to every business interaction for a successful and sustainable career.