First impressions DO count and people DO judge a book (read ‘you’) by its cover.
Apparently, it takes somewhere between five and 30 seconds from the moment we meet for us to form an opinion of another person and, once gained, that impression is hard to alter. So, as well as paying attention to our outward appearance before stepping through the door, it is critical that we are aware of what our body language is saying to a potential employer from the second that we appear in front of them. You really are being judged before you even open your mouth!
Trying to find a balance between confident without appearing overbearing or obnoxious; between intelligent and not coming across as a know-it-all or arrogant, is a difficult note to strike but your body language can help.
Walk in confidentally – into the office building as well as the room where the interview is being held. It’s all about attitude – look confident and professional from the outset.
Give a firm handshake. We hear this advice all the time as no-one likes a wet fish approach to a handshake. And make sure your palms aren’t sweaty despite any nerves. However, when we say ‘firm’, try not to crush any bones!
Sit with confidence! It may sound simple and obvious but don’t slouch – sit firmly in your seat with your back straight against the chair.
Make eye contact – again, you hear it all the time and that’s because it’s important. However, don’t stare straight at your interviewer – aim to hold ‘face’ contact ensuring you look interested and engaged – look at different parts of someone’s face every two seconds, rotating from eyes, to nose, to lips, so you’re never just drilling into the interviewer’s eyes. And if more than one person is interviewing you, be sure to engage everyone in the room.
Smile! No-one wants to work with a miserable person. It’s OK to be a little nervous but if you smile and show a happy disposition, it will make you feel better as well as make you appear more personable.
Use hand gestures while you speak. When we’re nervous, we tend to want to hide or sit on our hands. Try to be natural and gesture with them while you speak. So much better than fidgeting or fiddling with your hair/picking your fingernails.
Be respectful. The most important quality you can show is respect for the person (or people) who is conducting the interview. Be attentive and listen – gently nodding your head shows that you are paying attention and understanding what someone is saying. And gently leaning in towards the person who is speaking also shows that you are engaged in the conversation (but don’t shuffle to the edge of your seat when doing so).
Remember, your posture is an important part of your nonverbal conversation while being interviewed. Paying attention to some of these simple tips may help you remain calm and portray the right, confident impression. And a gracious thank you and exit is as important as those first moments – first impressions count but the goodbye will be the one they are left with!