Using my experience as a former hiring manager and a member of The Watts Group, Inc. team, I have compiled a list of the keys to making a successful and memorable first impression at a job interview:
1) Dress for success—but that doesn’t always mean a suit. Find out what company regulars usually wear, and then dress it up a bit for that first meeting (e.g., if everyone wears jeans, wear a pair of khakis). You’ll immediately be seen as a great culture fit.
2) The person at the front desk may not be the hiring manager—but that doesn’t mean his or her impression of you doesn’t matter. Some companies ask their front desk attendants to report back on the demeanor of interviewees who come through the door. How you treat the front desk is a good indicator of how you treat the people you work with.
3) A Fortune 500 CEO once said that when he had to choose between two candidates with similar qualifications, he gave the position to the candidate with the better handshake. Remember, not too strong and not too weak, just confident and firm.
4) Introduce yourself like a pro – by making eye contact, smiling, stating your first and last name, and giving that firm but brief handshake. Make sure to listen for the other person’s name (believe me, it’s easy to miss when you’re nervous), then use it two times while you’re speaking. This will help you remember his or her name and make you appear sincere and interested in the conversation.
5) Imitating certain behaviors and attitudes of your interviewer can help make a fast connection between the two of you (it’s called mirroring). For example, if your interviewer has high energy and gestures while he or she talks, try to match that high level of liveliness. And vice versa: If your questioner is calm and serious, decrease your energy a little.
6) Pay attention to your body language. “Once you’ve done this for a while, you have an ability to read people by their behavior,” says Deb Niezer, COO of AALCO Distributing. “You look at body language, the way they speak, and the way they present themselves to show the whole picture. If they say, ‘I’m open to new ideas,’ but then sit with their arms and legs crossed, it’s questionable. If they say they have management skills but don’t carry themselves like leaders, it’s hard to trust that assertion. The details make the difference.”
Here’s to nailing that interview.