How to make a great first impression

As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and this is particularly applicable in a job interview. Whether your first ‘meeting’ is face-to-face, over the phone or even over the internet, there’s no room for error. From your very first greeting, others will be evaluating your potential suitability for both the job and the company, ultimately leading to a decision on the next stage – a second interview, an offer, or rejection. In short, the pressure’s on and there’s no time to waste: you need to make an excellent first impression.

However, just as no two individuals react to the same situation in the same way, not everyone is able to leave good impressions when under pressure. It pays to understand how people make their first judgment and what you can do to be in control of the results. In this blog I have identified some of the pitfalls, issues and ways to shine.

Put your best foot forward

By being prepared. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how few people prepare intensively for an interview. For a start, when applying for a job, learn everything there is to know about the company and who you’re talking to. Research on products and services, as well as the company’s history and future direction. Learning about their competitors will give you an added advantage too. Then, if possible, prepare a video profile stating your aims, aspirations, why you’d be a great fit for the company and why the hiring manager should consider you.

(We will discuss the strengths of video profiles in future blogs.)

Once that hurdle is cleared and you’re invited in for an interview, bear in mind that when you meet someone face-to-face, 93% of their perception of you in the first few minutes is based on non-verbal data – your appearance and your body language. Ensure that you are well-groomed and appropriately attired while appearing relaxed, engaged and confident.

If your initial encounter is over the phone, however, be aware that 70% of how you are perceived is based on your tone of voice and 30% on your words. So remember that it’s not what just you say – it’s also how you say it that counts.

Be prepared to be tested

Employers use many tools to screen potential applicants, and these days to prepare yourself for the interview itself, chances are you’ll also need to be prepared for psychometric testing and cognitive assessment. More and more businesses are taking a deeper dive into candidates’ minds by using formal tests – like Myers-Briggs, for example. It’s all about hiring the person who will best fit the job from a skills, intelligence, personality and cultural perspective. Psychometric testing results provide employers with a behavioural profile of you – your level of intelligence or aptitude and your personality characteristics. The profile will indicate whether you can solve problems, are a team player or whether you prefer to work individually, and other relevant attributes. To succeed in psychometric tests, you’ll need to do some preparation in advance:

* Get yourself in good physical and mental shape (you need to be at your best to produce your best results).

* Find out what the employer is looking for in the right applicant (is it a team player or an individual problem solver?).

* Get to know the types of questions (familiarising yourself with the typical content and format of psychometric tests will give you an advantage).

* Practise, practise, practise (there are a multitude of psychometric tests you can take online).

Be prepared to be personable

An interview is a chance for you to sell yourself to a potential employer so it’s important to come across as someone interesting and engaging. It’s not uncommon for employers to hire someone they like and train them on what they are missing from the job description rather than employing a candidate who ticks all the boxes but doesn’t resonate on a personal level.  So if you have hobbies, talents and outside interests, mention them. Your interviewer(s) will be keen to see factors such as your personal development, growth, and choices you’ve made and the reasons why.

Another great way to build rapport with someone and identify how they feel about you is body language. Mirroring other people’s expressions and body helps build rapport, and you can tell whether someone is agreeing with what you’re saying by watching if they cross their arms or legs (in most cases this can be taken as showing disagreement).  Don’t overdo it though as in worse case scenarios it can feel intrusive. More importantly is intensive listening. The greatest salespeople (and we all need to sell ourselves) are great listeners.

The current market is very competitive and companies want to hire the best talent available.  And whilst there’s no definitive method to follow when trying to create a positive and memorable first impression, as you can see there are a few things you can do to help the process.  Don’t miss out on an opportunity by not doing them.

‘A good first impression can work wonders’ — J.K. Rowling

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