The minute you walked in the joint, I could see you were a man of distinction. Or could I?
Whilst we all agree that first impressions count, it still amazes me how little effort some people put into preparing for an interview. If you have managed to secure an hour with your potential future employer do you really want to be throwing it all away in the first five minutes?
So what are the common pitfalls to avoid and what are the best tips and tricks to truly wow your interviewer in that crucial first meeting?
You can never know too much
Do your research on the company prior to the interview. Scour their website from back to front. Search the internet for recent news articles. Check out LinkedIn to see the background of the person who is interviewing you, other people on the team and indeed anyone you may have in common. Show a real, genuine interest in the company and they’ll certainly show more interest in you.
Time waits for no-one. Make no-one wait for you.
Make sure you arrive 10 minutes prior to your interview. If you are coming by public transport or by car, allow for delays. If something utterly unavoidable happens, call ahead to let the interviewer know about your delay and re-schedule as appropriate. On the flip side of the coin, do not turn up more than half an hour early for an interview. What you believe demonstrates an eagerness to secure the role may be interpreted as desperation. Stalking skills are essential if you are planning a career as a serial killer, less so for most office jobs!
A firm handshake and a smile.
That split second opportunity to establish yourself as confident and capable before you’ve even opened your mouth is lost the moment you enter the room looking petrified and presenting a hand with all the verve and vigour of a dead fish. And if you suffer from nervously sweaty hands, deal with this before you walk into the room. A well-timed wipe with a discreet Kleenex could be all that is standing between you and your dream job.
Dress to impress.
It’s an interview, not a night out on the tiles or a Sunday morning trip to the supermarket. Smart corporate attire, neat hair, not too much make-up (regardless of gender), clean nails, polished shoes are the order of the day. Even if the office dress code is casual, the perceived effort you have made in regards to your presentation will play a large part the first impression you make.
The sweet smell of success.
You want to get the job? Lay off the cigarettes or strong smelling food before you go in to meet the interviewer. There is nothing worse for an interviewer than spending a whole hour trying not to breathe. Not only does it make it seem like personal hygiene is way down your list of priorities, it stops the interviewer from actually paying as much attention as they should to your answers.
Prepare some answers – and questions – in advance.
Re-read the initial advertisement for the role and make sure you can demonstrate all of the key skills and experience when talking through your working history. Bring attention to these points in interview to demonstrate why you are the person they should choose. In addition to this, make sure you prepare a list of possible questions and be sure to include some that imply a long term commitment to being with the business and adding value, such as ‘How do you see the role progressing over the next 3 years?’, or ‘What do you think are the most important things for me to do to ensure success in this role?’. Remember to use language that places yourself in the role already. If they can imagine you in the role, you’re halfway there.
The ending is just as important as the beginning.
Enquire about next steps in the process to indicate interest, thank the interviewer for their time and remember to shake their hand on leaving. If you are able to do so, a follow up email of thanks is often well-received. And remember the old glass of water test (click here to discover more about the water test). If you’ve been offered one, pick it up as you leave and ask where to take it! Showing respect for others having to clean up after you speaks volumes!
I am sure there are a large number of other tips and tricks I could suggest and no doubt a number of horror stories that I could tell, but I’m keen to hear your opinions. What do you think is the best way to make that killer first impression?