How First Impressions Work and How To Use Them


by LIA, Everyday Interview Tips

“You will never get a second chance to make a first impression.” – Will Rogers

We have all heard this phrase a million times and nowhere is it more important to make a good first impression than during a job interview. Why is it so important? After all, you have spent hours researching the company, preparing amazing answers to all the common behavioural interview questions and you have your list of intelligent job interview questions to ask. Surely you are going to win them over at some point in the hour long job interview? No, you’re not.

While it is true that the job interview takes an hour, it’s also true that the interviewer has already formed an opinion about you and your potential to fit the job and the company in the first 10 seconds of meeting you.

Not only that, but they will have actually made up their mind about you in the first 10 minutes of meeting you.

You must make a great first impression during your job interview otherwise all that hard work you put into your job interview preparation will be a waste of time.

You also need to know that non verbal cues like smiling, eye contact and body language are much more likely to influence a first impression than verbal cues so you need to pay particular attention to the following non verbal cues which are critically important in the first 10 seconds of a job interview.

First Impressions – Non Verbal Cues

A warm, confident smile will help put both you and the interviewer at ease. Don’t go overboard, it make make you look fake and insincere.

Eye Contact
Make good eye contact and continue to smile, it makes you look friendly and confident.

This may sound silly, but you really should practice your posture in the mirror at home before the interview. This applies to the way you stand and the way you sit. The first look the interviewer will give you tells them a lot about you and the way you stand is what they see. Similarly the second you sit down, your posture speaks volumes. Do not slouch as you stand or hunch in your seat. Slouching gives the impression that you are sloppy — or worse, that you don’t really care about the interview. They will assume this reflects your approach to your work too. Keep you back and shoulders straight, it make you look sharp and attentive.

Lean in Slightly
Body language experts tell us that when you lean in as you speak to someone shows you are interested and engaged with them and what they have to say. Although this is probably the best advice for a first date it’s also helpful in a job interview. Just remember to be respectful of personal space so things don’t get weird.

Dress Well
You need to make sure you look professional.

Although the following verbal cues are important throughout the entire interview, remember they will play a critical role in the first 10 minutes when the interviewer will pretty much decide if you are right for the role and the company.

First Impressions – Verbal Cues

A nice relaxed two way conversation is what you are aiming for throughout the job interview. Read though our list of tips for helping you stay calm during the interview and make sure you don’t monopolise the conversation. The other important point here is to be careful with your use of the words umm and like. Overusing these words is just a nervous habit which takes a bit of practise to break. Practise mock interview at home and record them, then play them back and see how many times you say um. If it is too many, repeat the mock interview and focus on small pauses or inserting phrases like..”That’s a good quest, well I think…..”. This gives you 2 seconds to prepare your answer and avoid saying umm.

While it goes without saying that you are careful with your manners and language in a job interview one thing to make particular note of is to be warm and friendly to the receptionist. Even though she is not making the hiring decision remember that many companies actually ask their receptionist about the manners and demeaned of each candidate she meets. Her opinion of you can have an impact so be nice.

Be Positive
It goes without saying that nobody wants to employ someone who is miserable and negative. But being neutral isn’t much good either, you actually need to show your positivity. Let your enthusiasm for the role, being part of the team and the organization show to everyone you interact with. Make the role the focus and leave all non-work problems at home.

Make a Connection
It can be very helpful if you are able to make a small connection with the interviewer. Have a good look around the room for anything that is familiar. A picture of the interviewer on holidays, a sporting trophy, certificates etc…can give you something to work with. Making casual comments like…”I see you have been to London, such a vibrant city. I was there late last year” or “I see you entered the XX marathon/triathlon. I love endurance training I enter every year myself.” These small connections give you something in common and create a positive rapport. Don’t overdo it though, just a small casual comment is all you need. The interview is all about the job, not all about you.

Careful With Humor
While it is true that a good joke or some mild humor can really ease the tension in any conversation, a job interview really isn’t the place to use this tool. You don’t know the interview so using humor is a big risk. Stay away from sarcasm and funny observations too. You don’t need to be a robot, but if you are going to use some humor make sure it is mild and non-offensive and always be careful.

Be Grateful
Although this entire post s about first impressions remember that the last impression you leave is important too. Make sure you thank your interviewer for taking the time to meet with you, shake their hand confidently and tell them you are available if they have any follow-up questions. Leave a good impression as you walk out the door.

Be On Time
This one is a given. It is disrespectful to be late and shows that you do not value the interviewers time. Make sure you are on time every time.

No Accessories
As above it is rude if your mobile phone rings during the interview and makes you look sloppy and unorganised. So, turn your phone off and avoid bringing along any accessories like a cup of coffee, excess bags etc… Less is more here.

Within 10 seconds of meeting you, the interviewer will form an opinion about you based on your appearance, body language & mannerisms, demeanour and how you are dressed. In the first 10 minutes they have decided if you are right for the job or not. Make the best first impression you can at every job interview, it is critical to your interview success.

Share It