Never underestimate the impact of a first impression.
Of course, you’ll largely be judged at an interview based on the main discussion: talking about the role, your capabilities and demonstrating your understanding of the company and its values. But what can you do immediately to get off on the right foot with your interviewer? We asked hiring managers at Sales Point Recruitment, Capture and MVF that very question - here's what they said.
1. Be early.
The last thing you want is to start your interview by showing up late and rushing in making apologies before you’ve even been asked the first question. But when GradTouch spoke to Jamie Beaumont, Director of Graduate Recruitment at Sales Point Recruitment, he told us that really you should aim to be early for your interview. He operates under the rule that “early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable”.
Being ten minutes early gives you time to collect yourself and mentally prepare for the interview. Importantly, it demonstrates that you manage your time well, that you respect the interviewer’s time and would be a reliable employee. If you do find yourself in a situation where you’re going to be late, calmly make a call to the company letting them know as soon as you can.
2. Dress the part.
Jamie also told GradTouch, “The people who want [the job] the most make the most effort. People turning up in chinos doesn’t work for me… I tell them to turn up in smart attire, but I shouldn’t have to.” He says dressing smartly for an interview, most importantly, “shows that [you] give a crap”.
Looking scruffy, ungroomed and wearing casual or unironed clothes suggests you aren’t that invested in the role and aren’t taking it as seriously as you should be – and that is definitely something that could make an interviewer rethink hiring you. Even if you’re told the dress code is smart-casual, or you know you’ll be able to wear jeans once you get the job, it’s always better to be a bit overdressed than to come across careless.
3. Practise your handshake.
Having a bad handshake isn’t going to lose you a job alone, but it is one of the first things you do that tells the interviewer something about you. Hiring managers from Capture, MVF and Sales Point Recruitment each told GradTouch about the importance of a strong, firm handshake; a wet, weak handshake certainly puts them off.
Smile, look the interviewer in the eye and shake their hand deliberately. That first impression could be more influential than you realise.
4. Stand tall.
Like the assertiveness of your handshake, posture is another key nonverbal cue that impacts the impression you make before the interview even begins. You want your posture to say, “I’m confident and competent”, not “I’m intimidated in this environment,” or worse, “I don’t care”. Be aware of your body language from the moment you walk in and avoid slouching.
5. Finally, ask the interviewer how they are.
This is just good manners, but it’s easy to forget when you’re nervous and trying to remember all the things you want to say in the interview itself. Jamie says something as simple as a candidate opening a phone interview by asking, “how are you, Jamie?” means he cannot wait to speak with that person more. Applying this as standard to any interview situation you’re in, and really listening to and engaging with the answer you’re given, could make a big difference.
Remember, interviews go both ways: it’s not just about who you are and what you can bring to the company – you should show an interest in the person you’re speaking to as well. Asking how the interviewer is can be a great way to build rapport from the very start.
These five strategies are effective because they demonstrate you really care about the job on offer, within seconds of arriving for an interview. Utilise them to ensure you make the best first impression possible.