You never get a second chance to make…
A good first impression.
Talk about pressure! The permanency of that first glance, first handshake, first moment, is nerve inducing in itself, never mind all the work of giving the perfect answers and demonstrating your amazing qualifications.
Such a defining moment shouldn’t be left up to chance and while we don’t always have control over circumstances, you can better your odds of success.
To start with, hopefully you don’t need reminding to have these basics checked off on your list, i.e. dress appropriately, no unkempt hair, no chewing gum, good posture, maintain eye contact, firm handshake.
Yes we’re in the 21st century and modern professionalism tends to allow some casualness, but this is a job interview and if you don’t take yourself seriously, no one else will. So no Dockers or sneakers, I don’t care if they’re black!
With the more superficial considerations out of the way, let’s go a bit a deeper and look at tricks to set the mind frame.
Fake it till you make it – An adage helpful for those with extra nerves. Great to think of if you’re applying for a position that might require more experience than you have. If the confidence isn’t coming naturally, just imagine you do have all the right stuff, how would you feel then? This doesn’t mean be disingenuous and put on heirs. It simply means be the person for the job and let that emanate through your body language and your answers.
Be in the moment – Being asked the tough questions, you’ll be thinking on your feet and normally a little more awake than usual. But if you’re already thinking of your answer before the interviewer’s done asking you’re not giving them your full attention. Breathe and maintain full awareness. This will help you avoid losing eye contact and fidgeting which is highly distracting and connotes anxiety. Answering the wrong question is a guaranteed – no thanks.
Be prepared – We give this advice in media training to professionals of all levels. Often nerves are simply a product of not knowing what to say. If you have practiced your responses by anticipating potential questions, and taken the time to review the job description, you’re going to take your stress levels down at least a notch or two and it will already be apparent when you walk through the door. Don’t wing it! This is your career.
Keep your eye on the goal – which is… to show them you’re the one to hire! That means no veering off into your personal life or what you did on vacation. While some small talk is necessary to break the ice, each time they turn it over to you to speak is an opportunity to prove why your skills fit the bill – don’t waste it because your competitor won’t. This is useful again for any gaps in experience you might have. By driving the conversation towards the goal, you can highlight the relevant background you do have.
Close the call – ask your closing questions, summarize why you are a good fit and ask a closing question such as, “based on our discussion is there anything missing or concerns about my being the right candidate”. “Do you see any gaps at this point?” Then make sure you clarify and fill in those gaps. If an interviewer had an initial poor first impression of you, you will need to create this opening and gently challenge them to see you as a good fit.