The old saying goes that “you will never get a second chance to make a first impression” and, while this may not strictly be true with the advent of social media and the widespread availability of personal information, there is little that can replicate the impact of a positive face to face encounter.
Reaching this point in the job application process is extremely time consuming and potentially very stressful. It then requires an awful lot of preparation to ensure that you give the best account of yourself to your potential employers.
The usual common sense means of preparation should not be overlooked, but there are also other ways in which you can equip yourself to make a powerful first impression, some of which you may not have considered before.
Before the Interview
Stalk your Interviewers
Once you know the names of the people that you will be meeting, run their name through a search engine and find out as much about their background as possible. Tools such as LinkedIn are an incredible way to get an insight into the professional lives of your future employers without ever having spoken to them. Armed with this information you can tailor your approach to suit the audience, highlighting aspects of your own background and experience that you feel would be impressive to them and appropriate to the role. What’s more, if you find out that some of the interviewers have similar interests to you outside of work, you have an instant means of building rapport with them.
Check your Attire
Dressing smartly and appropriately is as important to a first impression as it has ever been. Today, however, it is a potential minefield. Gone are the days in which a well-fitted suit would suffice in all situations – today, depending on the industry, appropriate attire can vary from jeans and trainers to a custom fitted suit. By researching the business that you will be joining, and through your prior knowledge of the industry, you should be able to tell what it is necessary to wear. If it is in any way unclear, however, it is best to err on the side of caution and to opt for the more traditional or formal clothing at your disposal.
Always arrive around 10 minutes prior to the meeting’s start time. You will not give the best account of yourself if you arrive flustered, having rushed to get there on time, and there is little worse than showing up to an interview late. The 10 minute wait that you have will allow you time to gather your thoughts, perhaps skim through notes and, in cases in which the interview is taking place in the company’s offices, make an assessment of what your future working environment might be like. Be polite and talkative with the receptionist and any other members of staff you meet – you never know who could ending up having a say in the hiring process.
During the Interview
Act the Part
Non-verbal communication can be just as important to making an impression on others as verbal communication. For this reason it is vital that you demonstrate your professionalism and your determination to impress through other means than simply what you say. Sit upright at all times, make eye contact with the people you are speaking to, nod in agreement and add comments when they speak. Importantly, take a pen and paper to your interview and take notes on what the interviewers tell you – this will become vitally important when it is your turn to ask questions, and you can also reflect upon what was said during the interview when you return home.
Show your Knowledge
Nothing will impress a potential employer more than showing that you have done research on their business. Be sure to arrive with a few pristine copies of your own CV, in case they need to be handed to your interviewers, along with any samples of previous work that will be relevant to the role in question. Demonstrate the fact that you understand not only the job but their business by devising a plan of how you would carry out the role. Focus on the short, medium and long term goals of the organisation and show them what you would do to help them achieve these, giving concrete examples and numerical evidence throughout.
Interview your Interviewers
An interview is supposed to be a conversation between a business looking for a new employee and an individual looking for a new job. You are therefore well within your rights, and indeed you are expected, to ask intelligent questions about the role, the working environment and the company you will be joining. Having researched the business and the interviewers you should have some questions in mind prior to the interview taking place and, having taken notes throughout, there will undoubtedly be points that crop up during the course of the meeting which will merit further discussion later on.
After the Interview
Take a note of the direct email addresses of your interviewers and be sure to send each of them a message afterwards to thank them for their time. Stress how excited you are about the opportunity with their business but don’t be too pushy about expecting a decision too soon. This will ensure that your conversation stays fresh in the decision makers’ minds when they are assessing the performance of all interviewees, and it will demonstrate your determination to get the job.
Leave an Impression
If you are invited to the next round of interviews or, even better, offered the job, show how pleased you are, express your excitement and tell your interviewers how determined you are to make a success of the opportunity. If you are unsuccessful, for whatever reason, make a concerted effort to maintain the relationship and stress to the decision makers that you would love to be considered once again for any future opportunities in their business.