How to Create the Best First Impression

Do you know it takes less than a tenth of a second for us to form a first impression? That’s how quickly humans are programmed to jump to conclusions! So, if you’re in the process of job hunting, how do you make sure you present your best self, from the very first moment?

Back to basics

Admittedly, Covid has changed some interview behaviour, such as hand-shaking or standing in close proximity. But a lot of what helps you make a positive first impression comes down to good old-fashioned manners, which never really change.

The problem is, you’re likely to be feeling nervous, and when you’re nervous you tend to forget the obvious. For example, if you’re running late, let the interviewers know, and apologise when you eventually arrive. Thank the person showing you in, and don’t forget to smile!

Eye contact is crucial. In fact, a 2007 study showed that looking the person you are speaking to in the eye significantly increases your perceived intelligence. Online video is increasingly being used so for the same reason don’t forget to look at your camera. Studies have also shown that people generally prefer low-pitched voices in both men and women. During your interview, when nerves might lead to squeakiness, remember to breathe, lower your voice, and slow down your speech.

Clothes maketh the first impression

You don’t need a Savile Row suit, but you do need to look tidy and smart. Research has shown that smartly dressed people have a greater chance of being hired and promoted, and are expected to earn higher salaries.

Missing buttons, crumpled shirts and unkempt hair can look sloppy and cost nothing to fix. Avoid anything that causes you to fiddle, feel self-conscious, or move uncomfortably. Sort out your outfit in the days before the interview and get a second opinion. Would you hire a person who is dressed as you are?

Say their name

Dale Carnegie, author of the classic baby-boomer self-development book, ‘How to win Friends and Influence People’, advised ‘If you want to win friends, make it a point to remember them. If you remember my name, you pay me a subtle compliment; you indicate that I have made an impression on you. Remember my name and you add to my feeling of importance.’

It obviously makes sense to make an interviewer feel they are important to you!

Names are notoriously tricky to remember; but saying them out loud significantly improves recall. So as soon as the interviewer has introduced themselves, repeat their name back to them in a natural, conversational way, such as ‘lovely to meet you, Hayley.’

Admit to your nerves

Whilst nerves are completely normal, they can adversely affect the way you think, speak, and behave. The best way to control nerves is to acknowledge them. If the interviewer asks how you are, for example, you could say great, but a bit nervous.

Once you’ve verbalised the feeling it loses a lot of its power. Admitting to nerves also shows the interviewer that this job is important to you. Recruiters would far rather hire an honest candidate to whom this job really matters, than someone putting on a cool show of indifference.

No recruiter expects you to be perfect. But the first impression you create should leave no doubt that you care what they, and the organisation they represent, think of you.

To find out how to make the right impression online, read our piece on using social to succeed.

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