You never get a second chance to make…
a positive first impression.
Talk about pressure! The permanency of that first glance, first handshake, and first moment is nerve-inducing in itself, never mind providing great answers and demonstrating your amazing qualifications.
Such a defining moment shouldn’t be left up to chance, and, thankfully, you are in the driver’s seat and can increase your odds of both making a positive first impression and leaving a lasting one.
To start with, have these basics checked off, such as dressing appropriately, grooming well, not chewing gum, maintaining good posture and eye contact, and having a firm handshake.
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, even if they’re black and the CEO wears jeans!
The Key Elements to Create a Positive First Impression:
Fake it till you make it
This is helpful for those with extra nerves or if you’re applying for a position that requires more experience than you have. Imagine you do have all the right stuff. How would you feel then? Visualize yourself with the qualifications and confidence for the role. Who do you need to be, how will you show up, and how will you feel? Now own it and lock it into the theatre of your mind. Get a clear picture. This doesn’t mean to be disingenuous and put on heirs. It simply means to be the person for the job and let that emanate through your body language and your conversation.
Be in the moment
You’ll be thinking on your feet and a little more alert than usual, but if you’re already thinking of your answer before the interviewer’s done asking, they will feel less connected and maybe even disrespected by you. Breathe, maintain full awareness, and really listen. This will help you not lose eye contact and reduce fidgeting, both of which are highly distracting and connote anxiety. Answering the wrong question is guaranteed—no thanks. It is best to compliment and then demonstrate how important clarity and understanding are to you by asking a clarifying question. Something like, “That’s a great question; why is this important or is this a current issue?”.
Often, nerves are simply a product of not knowing what to say. If you have practiced your responses to anticipated questions and matched your achievements to the job description, then you’re going to take your stress levels down several notches. Your confidence will be apparent when you walk through the door. Don’t wing it! This is your career.
Keep your eye on the goal
Show them you’re the one to hire! Don’t veer 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, it is an opportunity to prove why your skills fit the bill. Don’t waste this time because your competitor won’t. Drive the conversation towards the goal of matching their needs to your experience and similar achievements. This ensures that you highlight the relevant background you have without dwelling on any gaps.
Test and Reinforce
Summarize why you are a good fit and ask a closing question such as, “Based on our discussion, is there anything you are missing or do you have any concerns about my being the right candidate?”. “Do you see any gaps at this point?” Make sure you clarify and fill in those gaps. If an interviewer created an initial poor first impression of you, you will need to create this opening so you can bring clarity and gently challenge them to see you as a good fit. Remember, they want to find a good fit and will appreciate you connecting the dots for them.
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