Updated: Nov 4, 2022
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Did you know people take as few as 7 seconds to make a first impression of you? From the first handshake you are going to be evaluated on your poise, appearance, posture, skills, abilities, and persuasiveness.
That's why it's so important to plan these first few moments carefully to stand out as the top candidate. In this article, we'll cover the 6 best ways for making a great first impression at your next interview:
Dress for Success. What to wear and what your clothes say about you.
Be Conversational. Harness communication skills to turn the interview into a great conversation.
Build Rapport. How to harness matching and mirroring techniques to create instant connection with your interviewer/s.
It's How You Say It. Use non-verbal communication and gestures to show confidence, increase trust and add credibility to your message.
Body Language. Bring awareness to your body language and improve your posture to deliver a strong impression.
Make It Look Natural. Exactly what to practise and how get the right assistance to pull it all together while looking perfectly calm, in control and comfortable.
1. What To Wear For Your Job Interview
For many job interviews, it is easy to think that you should get hired based solely on your resume, not on how you're dressed. But, making a solid first impression is very important to the hiring process. Wearing a crisp outfit, that’s clean, ironed and stylish, can make or break your first impression. If you're dressed in a way that's distracting or inappropriate, your interviewer may not be able to pay proper attention to your answers or may find it hard to relate your qualifications to how you’ve dressed.
With any interview, it’s important to come across as confident and self-assured in your ability. The outfit you choose can help you project that image, especially if you're comfortable with what you've chosen to wear.
Rely on your research of the company to make an informed choice regarding the culture and dress code. If in doubt, opting for more formal than not will help you make a professional impression.
When deciding what colour to wear, it's important to keep it simple. Grey, navy or brown are safe choices for your jacket and tailored pants/skirt. Ideally, pair it with dark, polished leather shoes. When you're picking your collared shirt or blouse, don't go for anything too garish and avoid loud patterns which can be distracting. For accessories, keep it simple with a nice watch for men, or a set of earrings and a necklace for women.
2. Communication Skills and Creating Conversation
The ability to communicate well requires good listening skills as well as speaking ability. Sitting in front of someone who significantly impacts your future makes it easy to let nerves get hold of you and affect your behaviour, but building a great connection could be the reason you’re chosen for the job over other candidates.
One of the best ways ways to create this connection is to use your communication skills to turn the interview into a conversation. Here's what you need to keep in mind:
Keep the conversation natural, and show genuine interest in the business and the role. Sound relaxed and confident by lowering the tone of your voice and avoid speaking too quickly.
Timing is everything. Your responses should be only a couple of minutes long. Otherwise, you lose the listener’s attention. Keep it to around 75 words in length to deliver your key points in a clear, digestible way.
Tell your stories clearly and concisely using the SAR Framework (Situation, Action, Result) to structure examples from your professional experience.
Use keywords. Using specific terms from the job description during your interview highlights your understanding and suitability for the role. It can make it easier for the interviewer to ask follow up questions or continue the conversation with you as you build natural rapport in line with their specific needs.
Ask questions early in the process to create conversation. Instead of just waiting until the end of the interview to ask anything you’re curious about, which could result in a stilted interaction, respond to what the interviewer says with your questions. Try asking open-ended interview questions to keep the conversation flowing.
Personalise your questions to what you know about your interviewer’s position, business, specific clientele or current focus.
Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand the question completely before you answer. Feel free to ask for clarification of any part of the question you don't fully understand.
3. Building Rapport
The basis for rapport is that when people are like each other, they like each other. The two primary ways in which people gain rapport is through Matching and Mirroring.
Studies illustrate that the communication between people breaks down into three areas. Words count for 7% of communication, tonality was 38% and physiology 55%. Understanding this, an instant connection can be established by matching and mirroring.
Matching is doing something exactly the same way the other person is doing it. If one person raises their left hand, the person matching raises their left hand. Mirroring is being the mirror image of someone. If one person raises their right hand, the person mirroring raises their left hand.
To make a great first impression, the 3 main elements to match and mirror are:
i. Their physiology
When we replicate the physical actions of another such as their hand movements, posture, facial expression, eye blinking rate or movements, it undeniably sends a message to their unconscious mind that we are like them.
ii. Their voice and keywords
This is the fastest and easiest way to build rapport. By matching the way that they speak such as the tone, volume and tempo. If they use specific words you can often use these too. By using their predicates, rapport will be reinforced.
iii. The size of the pieces of information they use
If you are speaking with someone who is always talking about specific details, then by matching this, that will build rapport. Similarly, if someone is always talking about the bigger picture, then do likewise to build rapport.
4. Non-Verbal Communication
It's not what you say, it's how you say it!
We all communicate nonverbally. The image that we project from our nonverbal communication affects the way that our spoken communication is received. While getting your verbal communication clear is essential, it is equally important to understand what your nonverbal communication is telling others. It takes more than words to persuade your interviewer that you're the right person for the job!
Many gestures that we make are unconscious movements or mannerisms. Being aware of what our gestures mean will make us aware of what we are communicating. The following list is not comprehensive, but it is a good place to start.
Biting nails: This may mean insecurity or nerves.
Turning away: Looking away indicates that you do not believe someone.
Pulling ears: Tugging at ears can indicate indecision.
Head tilt: A brief head tilt means interest. Holding a tilt equals boredom.
Open palms: Showing palms is a sign of innocence or sincerity.
Rubbing hands together: Rubbing hands together is a sign of excitement or anticipation.
Touching the chin: This signals that a decision is being made.
Hand on the cheek: Touching the cheek indicates someone is thinking.
Drumming fingers: This is a sign of impatience.
Touching the nose: People often associate touching the nose with lying. It can also signal doubt or rejection.
Pitch: People tend to naturally respect deeper voices. High-pitched voices are viewed as a sign of immaturity. Try a lower, even pitch. Even a neutral tone can make a person appear weak or insecure when there is a higher pitch at the end of a statement, like questions have.
Speed: Keep a moderate pace. Speaking too quickly will cause confusion, and speaking too slowing will make it difficult to keep attention.
Loudness: Speak up to come across as confident and authoritative. Quiet voices can be viewed as submissive. Keep in mind to match your volume to the room - you don't want to sound like you're shouting at your interviewer.
Tone: Tone conveys emotion, so avoid sarcasm and condescension. Vary your tone to prevent boring listeners with a monotone presentation.
5. Improve Your Body Language
People make snap judgements about each other based on body language. Once you understand the subtleties, it's possible to improve your body language and the way that others view you.
Be Aware of Your Movements
It is important to be aware of your movements and what they mean. The best way to do this is surprisingly simple: just make sure that your movements are genuine. Faked body language typically looks disjointed and unnatural. People subconsciously pick up on these movements and it erodes trust.
Keep the following in mind regarding your movements:
Relax: Try to relax and implement open body language. This will help prevent any nervous body signals.
Watch your hands: Use comfortable gestures when talking. Do not hide your hands, and try to avoid fidgeting or touching your face. Fold your hands loosely on your lap or on the table when sitting still.
Eye contact: Maintain eye contact, but remember to blink! You don't want to come across as though you are staring at people.
Smile: Avoid fake smiles. Genuine smiles instil trust and improve likability.
Watch your head: Look ahead; tilting is submissive. Nod occasionally to signal your interest.
What Your Posture Says
Posture is the basis of body language communication. People respond well to good posture, and having good posture improves physical and emotional health. Slouching is seen as a sign of insecurity or weakness. Confident body language demands good posture.
Straight posture automatically increases confidence and alertness. Avoid slouching, but remain relaxed.
Open body positions communicate a relaxed and confident demeanor. Closed body positions indicate defensiveness.
Standing or sitting erect: Standing straight communicates confidence. It will also prevent musculoskeletal pain.
Hunching over: This is closed body language and can signal unhappiness or insecurity.
Ducking or shrugging the head: This is a protective or submissive move to appear smaller. It is not equated with confidence.
Stand and sit straight: Straight posture maintains the natural curve of the spine. This is achieved by pulling in the abdominal muscles, pushing the shoulders back, and lifting the chest.
Head position: Hold the head upright and look to the front. This will protect the natural shape of the neck.
Relaxation: Posture should not be forced or stiff. Someone with straight posture should look and feel relaxed.
6. Make It Look Natural
Practise is the key to success. Many people have poor body awareness and don't realise the importance of their posture or positions. Practising in front of a mirror or videoing yourself with your phone will give an accurate picture of what you're communicating. Make adjustments, then practise again until it feels natural and effortless. Pay particular attention to the following:
Posture: Pay attention to any tendencies to slouch or hunch over.
Gestures: Identify and eliminate any nervous gestures you're in the habit of using.
Speech: Your tone should be conversational, and match your gestures and body language.
Get Expert Assistance
An interview coaching session with an expert career coach is the best way to prepare to make a memorable first impression! We'll help you refine your interview skills, question responses, presentation and body language.
Find out more and book here: