It has been said that many interviewers will make a decision about whether someone is right for the job within the first five minutes - so it’s imperative that you make a great impression from the offset. Here are some of the basics we recommend to our candidates to ensure they shine, right from the start.
Dress to impress
What you choose to wear at an interview is important, as it shows how professional you are and how much effort you have put into the interview. Your outfit should be smart, clean and good quality. If you don’t have a suit in your wardrobe, it is worthwhile investing in one, as it will definitely help you to make a good impression. It doesn’t matter what type of marketing or event management role you are going for, even if you might be able to dress casually once you’ve got the job, you should always dress professionally for the interview.
Check out our blog on this subject here: What should I wear to my job interview?
Use eye contact
The interviewers are not only looking for someone who has the skills and experience for the job, they also want to recruit someone who they get on with. If you walk into the interview looking at the floor or only make eye contact with one person, it will show disinterest and a lack of confidence. You should always try to make eye contact with each interviewer as you walk through the door. A reason we sometimes hear from our clients when they are rejecting a candidate post-interview is that they ‘lacked engagement’ - and eye contact can play a key part in that.
Everyone looks better when they smile and it feels good too. We relate better to people who look happy and who seem pleased to see us. This is particularly important in the first five minutes as it will help make a positive impression straight away. A smile shows that you are enthusiastic, confident and happy to be there, and it will also help to relieve any anxieties you may be feeling.
You should always shake hands with the interviewers and make sure it’s a firm handshake, without being over the top. A firm handshake shows confidence and it can help to create a positive initial impression. A limp handshake can come across as being nervous or intimidated, so keep this in mind when you are introduced to the interviewers.
Some body language books suggest trying to take an upper or lower hand position when shaking hands. Ignore them! This is not the time to be playing power games.
You can build rapport within the first five minutes of an interview by simply being yourself and coming across as natural and at ease. Interviews are not just nerve wracking for the candidate, the interviewers can also feel uneasy, especially if they don’t have much experience. In many cases, interviews aren’t carried out by HR, they are undertaken by managers who will be dealing directly with the candidate on a day to day basis. If you seem at ease and comfortable, you will help the interviewers to relax too, which will make for a successful interview.
Stalling on the first question will make you and your interviewer feel a bit awkward so it pays to be prepared. It could be the first formal question will be something like “Tell me about yourself” so it’s worth preparing a two minute career biography in advance. Or it could be “What do you already know about the role/the organisation?”, or “Tell me about your current role”. Being well prepared for these more factual opening questions will set you in good stead for the rest of the interview.
Beware the preamble
Although very few interviewers will deliberately try to catch you out, remember your interview starts from the time you walk into reception. Don’t save your charm for the interviewer; smile at the receptionist too. I know of one glorious case where a man treated the woman on reception very poorly only to discover she was the interviewer who had come out early to greet him!
Similarly, you may be asked some sort of icebreaker question as you settle down, such as “how did you get here?” or “did you find us okay?” Don’t slip up on these apparently innocuous questions; you’ll impress no one if you spend ten minutes complaining about the M1 or criticising the company’s inadequate signage.
Remember the old advertising slogan: You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. So make sure your first impression is positive and you’ll be much more likely to get the chance to make another great impression - by being invited back for a second interview! Good luck!