The Interview… Where First Impressions Are Everything

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33% of bosses know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether a candidate will get the job[1].  With this limited time frame to make a lasting impression it is essential that you get it right! Most of the key ingredients are obvious however there are some essential “Dos” and “Don’ts” that are often forgotten by candidates:-

 

Physical Appearance

Albeit obvious, candidates should present themselves as neat, tidy, and well-groomed to give a positive image to the employer. It is always better to overdress than under dress as candidates risk showing they are not taking the interview seriously. Cleavage, short skirts and untucked shirts do not give the professional impression that should be conveyed. Moreover, well-fitted clothes are a must because if a candidate is constantly readjusting their outfit they may seem fidgety.

Small ear piercings are acceptable as long as each ear is not too overcrowded and nose piercings can occasionally look smart on the right person. Any large piercings or other facial piercings should be avoided. All visible tattoos should be covered by clothing, hair or jewellery.

Personal hygiene is fundamental and a trait that a good candidate never lacks. Avoid having greasy hair or any dandruff before the interview. Hair should be tidy and away from the face to appear more open.  Smells such as ‘BO’ or cigarettes will immediately put off any employer as a malodorous employee will be unpleasant to work with. It is crucial to wear clean clothes and avoid smoking before an interview. Perfume and aftershave are always a good idea; just be careful it is not too overpowering.

This also applies to breath. The interviewer does not want to know what you had for lunch. Avoid garlic, onions and strong spices. Brush your teeth beforehand and have a strong breath mint of necessary. That said; do not chew gum in the interview as it looks completely unprofessional.

 

Body Language

Wearing a nice smile is crucial for a good first impression. It tells people that you’re an outgoing and intelligent person worth getting to know and conveys confidence and professionalism. Moreover, maintain eye contact with the interviewer when in conversation. A blank stare is a look people naturally adapt when they are trying to distance themselves, which is what a candidate should avoid.

The all-important handshake is a skill that not everyone has mastered. Make sure the handshake is firm and lasts no more than two shakes and should be accompanied by an introduction or expression of gratitude. If seated, always stand up to shake hands and if prone to sweaty hands, keep a handkerchief in a pocket or bag in order to discreetly wipe them beforehand.

 

Communication

Verbally greeting anyone at an interview is important to show respect and politeness. “Bonjour, Madame” or “Good morning” is sufficient and avoid less formal greetings like “ça va?” or “hi”. The most common way to address someone in France is by saying ‘Madame’ or ‘Monsieur’ and never use ‘Mademoiselle’ in the business world.

Most importantly, in France, it is essential to vousvoyer everyone you speak to at an interview. For English speakers this does not come naturally however it is ingrained into French language and culture and is considered extremely rude if the two are confused. Therefore, avoid at all costs referring to anyone as “tu” to maintain the boundaries between personal and professional and avoid offending anyone. 

A candidate’s tone of voice determines 38% of first impressions[2]. Some try to appear confident but overstep the mark with a loud tone of arrogance. On the other hand, a candidate trying to seem respectful and quiet may appear monotone and boring. Talking with a smile changes the tone of voice from monotone to cheery and will always be perceived well.

 

Conclusion

By paying attention to these small details to ensure good presentation, body language and communication skills, you can be sure to put yourself in the best possible light. The key is to play it safe and prepare beforehand, be polite and respectful with a smile to show confidence and gratitude for the opportunity. Remember, you have to make a good first impression to deserve a second.

 

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