The old saying goes ‘never judge a book by its cover’, meaning we should get to know people before we make any judgements and not rely on appearances alone.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. At all…
Most research (and general experience) states that we make our initial impression of someone from the first 5-7 seconds, and is likely to happen when you meet your interviewer. So you’d better make them count.
This isn’t as harsh as it seems. The interviewer has an extremely difficult task in assessing your ability and personality as an organisational fit in an extremely limited space of time. In this case it’s only natural that they’re going to use every indicator they can, which will include your appearance and dress code. They’re not looking for dashing good looks and a winning smile (couldn’t hurt, though) just a generally well-kept and groomed appearance.
First impressions provide a problem and an opportunity for candidates. On the one hand, you can potentially put yourself at a severe disadvantage by being unaware of these issues, and on the other by making a strong first impression you can put yourself in a position where your prospective employer is immediately thinking “This is the person for us”.
Fortunately, turning yourself into the latter is simple enough. These steps will give you a helping hand towards making those first 5 seconds count:
- Dress sense:
You should be neat, well dressed and appropriately styled for the interview. It’s not uncommon to ask what the dress code is for the meeting. In most cases you can safely assume business-wear. People will form their initial opinion of you from the way you dress, so make sure your clothes are clean, sharp and appropriate for the occasion. No need to go to great expense, you can dress smartly at a budget if you have a look around.
Personal hygiene is a must for any interview situation. Remember, the person that interviews you will either work with you, or report to people that do. If there is a hygiene issue it is unlikely they will recommend you for further progression. You don’t want to be ‘that funny smell in the corner’…
- Eye Contact:
Solid eye contact is a must for any occasion, whether personal or professional. Most importantly in the initial few seconds is to make strong (though not overly intense) eye contact with your interviewer. If your interviewer notices difficulty with making eye contact it will potentially put you at a major disadvantage. Put technically, it makes you look a bit shifty…
As you meet your interviewer the initial step is to stand (if you are seated) and shake hands. A good handshake will tell a lot about a person, and coupled with good eye contact and a warm smile this can immediately put them in a position where they feel they are going to like you.
These may seem simple enough (and they are), however your interviewer is looking for any signals they can as to whether or not you’re a fit for the position, both personally and professionally. There’s no secret code and you’re unlikely to be immediately discounted for having a tie that’s a little bit skewed or something trivial like that.
Think of this more as a general, holistic approach. Use these simple tips to allow you to demonstrate right off the bat that you’re the right person for the job.