First impressions aren’t only applicable to going out on dates! Several studies indicate that some hiring managers have already decided within 90 seconds of meeting an applicant if they will hire them or not. When you expand to the first 15 minutes, that increases to nearly all (90%+) hiring managers. So, how do you make those first few minutes count? This article will dig into a variety of verbal and non-verbal indicators to help you master this critical time.
Let’s start with the basics. Not putting some careful thought and consideration into this can put you behind the eight ball before even opening your mouth. Before you leave your home, you should have yourself in order. What is incorporated with this?
• Clothing – appropriate to the position. In most cases, this will be a business suit, but there are some careers where other dress may be suitable. In these cases, use your best judgement on what to wear.
• Grooming – trimmed facial hair for men, where applicable. Nails clean and trimmed appropriately.
• No unnatural hair colors, unless it is common or accepted in the industry you’re in.
• No excessive tattoos visible, unless it’s common or accepted in the industry you’re in…maybe common for a tattoo shop!
• No excessive cologne or perfume – you don’t want this grabbing the attention from your interviewer in a negative way!
• Jewelry – not excessive or flashy.
• No gum or mints! You don’t want your first discussion with a potential new manager sounding like you have marbles in your mouth.
If you are going into a business with several employees, it is likely your first point of contact will be an administrative professional or someone at a front desk. These employees should be greeted with the same enthusiasm and respect that you would demonstrate to your potential hiring manager, as well as any other employees you may encounter. If this is the case, politely advise them who you are there to speak with. If there is seating around, grab a seat and wait for the hiring manager/interviewer.
“A firm, hearty handshake gives a good first impression, and you’ll never be forgiven if you don’t live up to it”
– P.J. O’Rourke.
As the interviewer greets you, you should proactively offer a handshake; most of the time they will automatically reach for a shake as well. Provide a firm and brief handshake. Not one that will crush their hand and not one that seems like they are grabbing a wet noodle. The same should be repeated for anyone else you meet along the way. For example, if there are multiple interviews or a panel, they should all be offered a handshake.
Resume and/or Portfolio
You should always bring five copies of your resume with you in case there are multiple interviewers. Sometimes, they will fully explain the process in the verbal or email communication they provide to you upon scheduling. However, sometimes they won’t provide much detail, and you could be meeting with multiple people. Also, memorize any metrics or other specific details you have listed on your resume. The last thing you want to do is sound like a liar because the sales goals you met were different on your resume from what you just mentioned.
If you really want to set yourself apart from other applicants, make a portfolio. There are many different structures you can make for a portfolio, but this is an example of what one could contain:
• Cover with name and company / position you’re applying to
• Cover letter
• Summary of projects you’ve worked on that are relevant to the role (include screen shot, metrics or details beyond the bullets on your resume
• Letters of recommendation
• Awards or recognition
Presenting a solid portfolio will ensure that the hiring manager remembers you. A portfolio also gives you the opportunity to tie some interview responses back to the content in the portfolio. If you don’t have one of these put together, it should be the next thing you do before hitting that “Apply” button to another position!
“Language is a more recent technology. Your body language, your eyes, your energy will come through to your audience before you even start speaking”
– Peter Guber.
Body language plays an important part in the interview process. Research indicates that 55% of communication is drawn from non-verbal cues, or body language. As you may have heard before, what you say is not as important as how you say it. So, how do you present yourself in an interview? Let’s consider a few main areas of non-verbal cues during an interview:
• Posture – sitting straight in the chair or leaning slightly forward is preferred. Slouching could be interpreted as someone being lazy.
• Hands and arms – if the chair has arms, it is appropriate to rest your arms on the arms of the chair. If there isn’t, it is appropriate to rest your arms on the edge of the table, assuming there is one. Arms should not be crossed, as this can indicate that someone is not trusting what the other is saying. Hand gestures can be used to explain scenarios, but it should be in moderation. You don’t want to seem overly animated by flailing your arms with every sentence! And on the other end of the spectrum, you don’t want to look like a mannequin that has no movement. Crisp hand and arm gestures should be used to deliver your message.
• Eyes – always maintain good eye contact with your interviewer(s). If you are thinking of the response to a question, you can look at a focal point in the room, but don’t stare off into space for too long! Additionally, this reassures your interviewer(s) that you are paying full attention to them.
• Facial expressions – just as you would expect to be greeted at an establishment such as a hotel, restaurant or anything else, you should greet your interviewers with a nice, but not overly expressed smile. If you are telling an exciting story where you created an exceptional customer experience, or something of the sort, it should also show on your face! Would you believe someone that created an exceptional experience that has a stone-cold stare? Probably not!
• Walking – in some cases, you may be escorted around the building, including to the area where you conduct your interview. You should follow alongside the individual escorting you around by walking confidently.
“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere”
– Lee Iacocca.
When it comes to interviewing, just like a sales pitch or anything else, that quote pretty much sums it up! The way you verbally communicate with an interviewer will help shape their decision on if they think you’re a good fit for the role or not. So, how do you master this? Here’s a few areas to consider:
• Tone and inflection and pitch – a positive tone and inflection to demonstrate personality can go a long with in conversations; not just for interviewing, but for personal lives as well. Proper use of inflection can bring life to whatever you are explaining and can animate what may otherwise be a boring topic. The same can be said of tone. Consider the type of position it if you are applying for. If you were a hiring manager, would you hire a monotone individual for a customer facing position? It’s doubtful!
• Word choice – choosing the best words during an interview can be one of the most challenging aspects of the entire process. It helps to practice formulating your responses to anticipated questions at some point prior to the interview. This gives you a general talk track to reference for the scenarios they may throw at you.
• Jargon – avoid the jargon trap, unless it applies to what you are speaking about! What is the jargon trap? It places your audience in a lost state because they have no clue what you are referencing, often leading to them having to pull additional information from you through more questions. This would include referencing internal systems or acronyms you may be used to at your current job as well as other industry ones. The only exception to this is if the job posting called for something such as a PMP or some technical program that you reference. Outside of that, assume that they aren’t familiar with it. You can also offer to provide a brief explanation of whatever you are referencing in your discussion, if appropriate.
• Matching pace – whenever possible and it makes sense, it’s a good idea to match the pace of the individual(s) you are speaking with. If they are talking at a moderate pace, you don’t want to be talking too quickly or too slowly. Keeping the conversation rolling at a steady pace can ease some of the tensions that are amplified by the interview process.
• Actively listening – it’s not only annoying to hiring managers to have to repeat themselves, but can also leave the interviewer with the perception that you don’t pick up instructions well. Block out any distractions while you’re speaking with the interviewer(s) and focus on what they’re saying. If it’s a lengthy scenario-based interview question, it is okay to ask them to repeat it so you can ensure full understanding of what they are asking. However, you shouldn’t have to ask to repeat anything other than those interview questions.
• Rephrasing – if you aren’t completely sure you understand the question, you can rephrase it back to the interviewer(s) to confirm that you interpreted it correctly. This will help eliminate any wasted time and frustration during the interview. If a question is asked, and your response wasn’t appropriate for the question, it is essentially a throw-away. It may not hurt you, but it certainly won’t help.
If for some reason, you don’t end up getting a position, take the time to reflect on your interaction from a holistic perspective. Was it potentially something you said, or didn’t say, or demonstrated that prevented you from getting the position? Some individuals can go through many interviews and become frustrated because they keep getting passed by. For those that can get effective at identifying their own opportunities, and improving them, they find success much quicker.
It seems like lots of detail for what is a very brief moment in time. However, most would agree that time seems to slow down while in an interview; almost like watching the clock on the last period of the last day of high school before the summer. It doesn’t need to be! A little preparation beforehand can make the process go much more smoothly. After all, your first impression is the most important element of the interview process.
Let SuperCareer help you find your next opportunity to leave an exceptional first impression!
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