If there is one moment in the hiring process that makes most people extremely nervous, it’s those last few minutes before walking into an interview. In that moment, your desire to succeed meets with the anxiety of talking with an unknown interviewer – it’s a recipe for major butterflies, and sweaty palms.
But this moment doesn’t have to be filled with angst. With the right preparation, you should be able to walk confidently into any interview knowing that you’ll make a good first impression. Here are some tips:
Be On Time
Arriving late is not only embarrassing, but it costs you a lot in the first impression department. Try to anticipate traffic, weather or other delays that might cause you to need extra time when traveling to an interview. It’s far better to arrive early than to explain why you’re late.
Did you know that your first impression lasts a whopping seven seconds? That’s barely long enough for you to walk in the door and shake hands. While appearance isn’t everything, appearing professional does matter. Learn about the company’s dress code before your interview and dress accordingly. Remember, it’s better to be slightly overdressed, than under-dressed.
Be Confident, Be Aware of Body Language
Second to your appearance, body language can quickly set the tone for your interview. Stand tall, look people in the eyes and be engaged in your conversations. And, while it may seem trivial, have a strong handshake – whether you’re male or female. Practice with your roommates or family to deliver a solid shake that presents you with confidence. Worried about a nervous jitter or laugh? Check out these relaxation techniques to help you stay on top of your game.
Being prepared is key to your interview success – and it will help calm your nerves. Whether it’s a phone interview or an in-person interview, you want to take time to develop your elevator speech to provide a quick summary of who you are and why you’re qualified for the job. It’s also a good idea to make a list of your accomplishments and examples that showcase your abilities; having this list with you can help spur your memory if your nerves sidetrack you.
And, prepare a list of questions ahead of time that you want to ask the interviewer; bring these with you on a small notepad or sheet of paper. Of course, there are tons of other ways to prepare for an interview – read them here.
Sometimes the pressure of an interview can create the mindset that everything you say must be absolutely perfect. But, you’ll do much better if you’re just you. It’s okay to admit to some of your little flaws or talk about examples when things went wrong. This is an opportunity to show that you’re human and that you learned from past mistakes.
You can use the opportunity to talk about how you’ve changed your behavior or how you would handle a situation differently now. And, don’t be afraid to show some of your personality. This will help the interviewer – and you – determine if the job and the company are a good fit for you personally.
Your first impression can extend beyond the first few moments of your interview. Your follow up can play a critical role in how you’re remembered. So, don’t forget to follow up! Sending a thank you note goes a long way with recruiters and hiring managers.
In this electronic age, you might consider sending a brief e-mail the same day as your interview and a hand-written note mailed no later than the next day. The goal of these contacts is to thank the person who interviewed you for their time and the opportunity to learn more about the position. It’s also a great way for you to express your enthusiasm for the job and add a small detail about how you would fit into the department or the company.
Interviewing is a process that will come full circle, usually starting and ending with a handshake. At the beginning, those first few seconds will set the tone for the entire conversation. After you’ve left, your follow up will close the loop. Start things right. Approach the interview positively, keep a tissue in your pocket for those sweaty palms, and smile. Remember, you only get one chance to make a great first impression.
Trish is a senior communications manager for Sodexo, a world leader in quality of daily life solutions that contribute to the progress of individuals and the performance of organizations. As a member of the marketing and communications team for Sodexo’s Talent Acquisition department since 2010, Trish is an employment expert who aims to educate job candidates about the hiring process, networking opportunities and the culture of Sodexo. A graduate of Marist College (BA – Psychology) and the University of Southern Mississippi (MS – Public Relations), Trish has never been far from the classroom. As a former adjunct professor for the College of Charleston and professional advisor for the college’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter, she enjoys helping students reach for their potential and guide them through the process of preparing for their future careers. A lover of technology and gadgets, cookies, chocolate and baking, Trish spends most of her free time raising two small children and competing with husband to obtain the most stamps in her National Parks Passport book. Feel free to connect with Trish or learn more about careers at Sodexo.