The importance of making a great first impression is one of those truths about the job interview that is so renown, it has become a cliché. There is a significant amount of pressure placed on those first critical seconds of a new encounter or interview that supposedly define your relationship going forward. A great first impression in the interview and job recruitment process is an imperative tool to have in your candidacy tool belt. While not all of us are born with the natural grace of a royal, or the type of easy, breezy smile that could feature in a toothpaste commercial; a great first impression is never out of reach. These skills, and take note, a seamless meet and greet does require skills, can be learned. For most people, a great first impression is not spontaneous, but is crafted and cultivated. By following these simple tips, you can achieve the same.
1. Always be on time. A first impression only starts once you arrive.
William Shakespeare has provided the world with many a literary gems, but this one bodes best for the candidate looking to make a great first impression: Better Three Hours Too Soon Than a Minute Too Late.
There is nothing more off putting than a late job applicant. Life happens and coupled with Murphy’s Law, this means on the day of your interview: your bus doesn’t show up, there is a delay on the train, you spilled coffee on your shirt and had to buy a new one, the little elves hid your car keys, there was a sheep crossing on the highway, and your dog ate your homework. The folly of these examples is meant to demonstrate that even the most reasonable or unreasonable of reason for tardiness sounds like an excuse. Don’t make excuses, instead, make a plan and a back-up plan to ensure, no matter what, you arrive with time to spare.
2. Take a long look in the mirror. What does your first impression look like?
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most employable of them all?
The answer is: the person who looks the part. While I am sure you could wow anyone with your intelligence, diligence, and work ethic, these characteristics take time to discover and appreciate. A person’s precursory perception of you is based on what they see and hear in the first several seconds of introduction. This is not a game of vanity where the fairest of them all wins; however, it is important to look neat, put together, current, and like you belong in the environment. As aforementioned, dress for the part. While a black, formal suit may be appropriate for a Bay Street firm, a more casual, coloured and coordinated look may be better suited for a boutique company outside the downtown core. Take time to assess your image and its appropriateness for your interview environment.
3. Listen to your non-verbal communication. What does your first impression say in its silence?
93% of all daily communication is nonverbal; actual words only take up 7%.
Studies show time and time again that non-verbal communication is as or more important than verbal communication. This means you are saying a great deal without saying anything at all. The key to a great first impression is the ability to make the other person relaxed and comfortable in your presence. By sending the right body signals, you can express an intangible ease about yourself without having to say a word. Head back to the mirror, practice saying hello, asking and answering questions, and moving through the motions of the interview or event you are to attend. Alternatively ask a friend to role-play the interview or event with you. After these exercises, analyze your natural body movements: do you fidget, touch your hair, tap your foot, cross your arms, or look away from eye contact? By being aware and conscious of “body bad habits,” you can actively work to exude a more calm, confident and open self through your non-verbal communication.