Whether you’re preparing for your first interview, or a seasoned pro, it’s always a good idea to remind yourself about a few key “presentation” items beforehand. We’ve all heard the saying “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” and the reason we hear it so often is basically that it’s true.
We’ve already talked about arriving on time and in appropriate interview attire here. The next step after you walk in the door is going to be meeting your interviewer. This is your chance to make that phenomenal first impression. So how do you do that?
Look and speak like a professional. This has less to do with what you’re wearing and the things you’re saying, and more to do with how you carry yourself and how you speak. Of course, the most important thing in any interview is the content of your responses. Still, even if you have all the right answers, if you don’t know how to express yourself in a confident and professional manner, you may lose the job anyway.
If you’re nervous about the interview, practice with a friend or family member. You want to be able to walk in with your head held high, look people in the eye, smile, and extend a firm handshake when you meet your interviewer. Seriously. Practice that handshake. Guys: you’re not trying to break your interviewer’s hand. Girls: your hand is not a dead fish you’re extending.
When you sit down for your interview, be aware of your body language. Good posture is powerful. Don’t slouch back in your chair. In fact, don’t let your back touch the back of the chair. Don’t hunch your shoulders. Don’t cross your arms. Your hands should be comfortably in front of you—if you’re a fidgeter, have a copy of your resume and/or samples of your work that you can touch from time to time. Try to avoid nervous tics like twirling your hair, twisting your ring, picking at your fingernails or tapping on the table. Sit up straight and tall near the front of your chair. Pretend you’re trying to make yourself as tall as possible if that helps. You want to appear alert, but not aggressive, so don’t lean in toward your interviewer either.
And lastly, be aware of your enunciation. That is the way you say things. Speak plainly and clearly. Do not mumble. Be aware of your volume. Don’t yell at your interviewer, but don’t speak barely above a whisper either. The last thing you want is to force your interviewer to ask you to repeat yourself. If you have a strong accent, do your best to speak without it. It will come out eventually, but you don’t want to confuse your interviewer with figures of speech he or she may not be familiar with, or unusual pronunciations.
Remember, the goal in the interview is to give your potential employer as many reasons to hire you as possible, and as few reasons not to as possible. Your interviewer is going to make assumptions about you based on the way you carry yourself, the way you speak, the way you dress, and your body language. These things are a short-hand for how you communicate with colleagues and customers, how well you can sell an idea or a product (in this case, yourself), how seriously you take your career and the work that you do, and more. It’s all about first impressions. Impress them.