First impressions happen fast, and in the world of job interviews, they happen even faster. It takes far less time than you might imagine—often as little as a minute or two for a hiring manager or team member to form an opinion about you, regardless of how long the meeting continues on. In these brief moments—with the right mix of confidence, preparedness and enthusiasm—you can be sure you’ll leave a great impression with a prospective employer.
For the next installment of our Interview Stress Reduction (ISR) series, here are tips to help you successfully navigate the first few minutes of your interview:
1. Dress appropriately – Dress in a manner that shows you are taking the interview process seriously. You may also wish to ask your recruiter what the office dress code is when you schedule your interview. In most cases, a nice dark suit/white shirt and tie or business-appropriate dress will fit the bill, but knowing what sort of environment you’re walking into never hurts. You’ll want to err on the side of overdressing. Getting the scoop on attire gets you prepared, and your appearance illustrates your attention to detail.
Another practical consideration: If you think there’s even a small chance you might be interviewing in the near future, take a little time to check out and try on your interview attire—especially if you haven’t had it on in a while. Does it fit? Is it clean? Is it of the decade you’re living in? Are your shoes shined? We’d never suggest that you need to invest in this season’s Armani suit or a pair of Manolos, but an ill-fitting ensemble or ring-around-the-collar can quickly put a drag on your image. A smart look can be had on virtually any budget. And plan your trip to the dry cleaner well ahead of time.
2. Arrive early, but not TOO early – Timeliness is critical for an interview, and being late is a killer, but candidates often arrive far earlier than is practical. Consider that there may be more people interviewing than just you, and that you’ll need to be greeted (which is an interruption). Depending on the office, space may be limited, so there might not be a dedicated lobby or reception area for you to wait in.
Showing up 30 – 45 minutes early is entirely too soon and comes across as over-eager. Arriving 10 – 15 minutes early is a good target—it shows you care, but doesn’t smack of desperation. A number of our clients have more involved security procedures, so we’ll have our candidates arrive about 20 minutes early in those cases. If you happen to get to an interview site sooner than expected, find a coffee shop, hang out in your car or sit in a main lobby and go over your notes and rehearse a bit.
3. Show respect to EVERYONE – Know that your interactions with every staff member, from the administrative team to the hiring managers, matters. Be friendly and courteous to everyone you meet, because you never know who might be asked for feedback—and, well, it’s the nice thing to do. And NEVER assume what someone’s position in the office is. The person that greets you or gets you coffee is just as likely (for all you know) to be a director as they are an administrative assistant. But treat everyone like they own the company, because even the perception of a slight can doom an interview before it starts.
An advantage of working with Sharp Decisions is the amount of time we spend prepping candidates for their interviews, which includes a full-scale review of the position, practice questions and answers, and perhaps most importantly, an introduction of all of the key players (and their positions) they will encounter.
4. Body language – Subtleties in body language can make a big difference, so be aware of how you’re carrying yourself at all times—give a firm handshake, keep good posture and make eye contact, but not too much. There’s a fine line between polite acknowledgements and the crazed stare of a psychopath.
When seated, stay relaxed, keep your feet firmly on the ground and don’t slouch and or rock too much in your chair. Do your best to be ‘in the moment’—even though your interview is of vital importance, it’s not the only thing that’s happening in your life. Any number of situations (kids, health) can vie for your attention, and understandably so. Even if you are in the midst of an exceptionally tough day, it’s essential to maintain your composure. Often times just pretending you’re on top of your game will elevate you, your fine acting skills becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. But above all else…
5. Be positive – It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the interview process. You’re selling yourself in an unfamiliar environment to people you don’t know, for a job you’re not even 100% sure you want just yet. Through all of this, remember to project the energy you want to see coming from your interviewers. Be empathetic. You have no idea what sort of day they’re having, if they have a cold, or what sort of job pressures they’re dealing with. So no matter how rocky you think the interview process is going, stay focused, steady and pleasant.
Let these tips, your experience and positive attitude work for you while you make a great first impression.