Everybody knows how important first impressions are. But not everybody knows that the "first impression" is actually only a seven second window upon first meeting someone.
This means in an interview situation you need to act quickly in order to make a brilliant first impression on your interviewers. To nail the interview and be remembered well here are seven things to do in those crucial seven seconds from The Graduate Recruitment Bureau.
1. Smile. Facial expression is so important when it comes to making a good impression. You need to make sure your expression is saying more about you than words could in a split second. Make sure you don’t have a false, cheesy grimace slapped across your face- they will know it is fake and masking nerves, arrogance or nonchalance. Go for "I’m a lovely, fun person who would love to chat to you about my future" and come across as warm and outgoing. They need to spend all seven seconds thinking you are confident and professional- which is achieved with a smile- not a frown, grimace or poker face.
2. Shake their hands. The handshake is the universally accepted signal of professionalism, politeness and confidence. A good handshake is a fine art; a tricky balance between a tight squeeze and a limp stroke. It needs to say "I mean business" and also "I’m cooperative," so you might want to perfect it beforehand. Additionally, make sure you shake all their hands if there are multiple interviewers. You don’t want to get in one of their bad books because you only acknowledged the person in the middle, or the "main" interviewer. Greet them all separately and you will have successfully presented yourself well, creating their good impression of you.
3. Introduce yourself. The chances are someone probably called you from a waiting room with a file of notes about you, so they know who you are. But even so, when you shake their hands just say "Hi I’m Ashley;" they will then introduce themselves and you can reply "lovely to meet you" or something similar. It breaks the tension and gives the first few seconds a conversation topic. It also means you are less likely to waffle on about irrelevances, like the temperature in the waiting room, or clam up completely and not say anything. Every one of the seven seconds needs to be productive so don’t waste any on random topics- you are there to talk about you, so do so right from the beginning.
4. Speak clearly. There is little point introducing yourself and saying wonderful things if they can’t understand what you are saying. Speak in a competent and confident way making sure what you say is relevant and appropriate; you want to paint yourself in a good light and give them as much, good information as possible. Make sure you don’t speak too loudly and talk at an appropriate pitch- it’s been found that people will take you more seriously if you have a deeper voice. This doesn’t mean you need to go all Morgan Freeman, but think about it, nobody wants an over excited mouse in the office.
5. Maintain eye contact. People perceive you as shifty, nervous or rude when you don’t make eye contact. Therefore, to make a good first impression make sure you lock eyes with the interviewer as soon as you enter the room and maintain it whilst you shake hands and introduce yourself. Don’t stare or be creepy about it, but hold the interviewer’s gaze for at least three seconds at a time throughout the rest of the interview too.
6. Look smart. Appearance is as important as body language and your answers in an interview, so you need your appearance to be fitting for the occasion. Even if the company accepts casual dress, it is good practice to dress smartly for the interview; you’d much rather be overdressed than seen as scruffy. Additionally, remove any extreme piercings, for example facial ones apart from earrings, and cover any visible tattoos with long sleeves or buttoned up blouses. You’ll be judged on your appearance in the seven seconds, so make sure there is nothing that could hinder their first impression of you.
7. Sit down only when invited to do so. After you have shaken all of their hands and formally introduced yourself the natural next step is to sit down. However, it is polite to wait until the interviewer invites you to. They will probably just say"please sit down" or "take a seat," but if you just walk straight in and plonk yourself in front of them it will appear rude and hasty. Additionally, if they then go to shake your hand you have the embarrassment of standing back up and risk getting flustered. The best plan of action to give them a good first impression of you is to do the meet and greet then sit down when you are invited to.
It’s a lot to remember and put in to practice but it will be over before you know it- in seven seconds to be exact. So smile, shake hands, speak clearly and look smart to create the best first impression ever. The rest of the interview is up to you…