So we have all been there… This could be the most important interview of your life, I mean this really could be it. At this point, all your future dreams and ambitions are at risk.
The decision whether you make something of your life or watch it descend down a depressing spiral, ending with you homeless and broke with only your trusty flea ridden pooch (probably called beans) for companionship, could be decided over this chat with your possible future employer.
Now I can’t help you with your depressingly light CV or even that poor reference that your previous employer is going to give you but what I can help you with is how to act and maybe a few tips on what to wear.
They say never judge a book by its cover but although I agree with the sentiment, I think it is largely ignored. I think everyone judges everything by its cover, I certainly do, well to begin with anyway.
Sure, I sometimes meet an individual who I initially dislike and occasionally after a while I may change my mind but in an interview situation, you may not have enough time to sway someone’s opinion of you. Clever scientists have discovered it takes seven seconds for someone to make a first impression.
You want to be sure that in those first seven seconds, you look and act the best you can, in order to give yourself the best possible chance of nailing the interview.
First things first, make sure you lead with your winning smile. No, not a false, cheesy grimace. Rather try a smile that says, “Hello, I’m confident yet humble and can’t wait to chat to you about my future as an integral part of your team.”
They need to spend all seven seconds looking at someone whose facial expression oozes confidence and professionalism, this will not be achieved with a frown, grimace or your best poker face. I suggest practising in the mirror beforehand.
The Importance of the Handshake
The first and hopefully only part of physical contact, (unless it’s a casting couch interview) you will encounter comes from the handshake. I cannot stress how important a good handshake is. For me, it is always important, regardless of whether it’s for an interview or just saying hi to someone on the street.
A weak, limp, clammy hand is an awful thing to shake and I have made many first impressions, which for the record I haven’t changed. If you give me a poor handshake, I will instantly dislike you and believe me, there is no way back from there. A good handshake should be firm but not bone crushing.
It should last about three seconds and should be released after, even if the introduction continues. Any longer it can turn into an awkward shaky hand man sketch. Throughout the handshake, good eye contact must be held. And if you are being interviewed by multiple interviewers make sure you shake everyone’s hand.
You don’t want to get into one of their bad books, because you only acknowledged the main man in the middle. I suggest practising shaking your own hand while staring into your own eyes in the mirror beforehand.
As you have most likely been invited to this interview, it is probable that the interrogator already knows your name. Even so it is important that you take the opportunity during your great handshake to introduce yourself. Keep it simple and clear. No waffling on about room temperature, a quick “Hi, I’m James;” is perfect.
They will then introduce themselves and you can then follow up with, “lovely to meet you” or something along those lines. I don’t suggest trying this beforehand. You’ll look stupid and I seriously hope by now you know your own name.
Only after you have shaken everyone’s hands, will you be invited to sit down. It is important you wait for this invitation as not to look rude and hasty. Remember to unbutton your suit jacket when you sit. It’s basic etiquette and will give off an air of relaxed confidence.
Why You Need to Look Smart
Now this part is really important. Your appearance is just as important as your body language and even what comes out of your mouth. What you are wearing should be relevant for the occasion.
I would always suggest to lean closer to being over-dressed than under. If you can, research what your possible future colleges wear to work. Some work dress codes are smarter than others and knowing this can help your decision on what to wear.
Check out my blog on what to wear for that first interview for more details on what is the best look to go for. Always remove all piercings and cover all tattoos, unless you are going for a job in a tattoo studio.
My last bit of advice is to RELAX. There is no point in getting so worked up that you end up a nervous, sweaty wreck. Being confident in yourself will encourage the big scary man/woman on the other side of the table to believe in you too.
Follow these tips and I guarantee that the important seven-second judgement will be a positive one. Now the rest is up to you… Good luck.
Check out The Interview #1: Wear for Wear to help you look the best for your interview.