The Interview… Where First Impressions Are Everything



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.



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.



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.



The Value of The French Language


English is the most widespread language in the world and is more widely spoken and written than any other language. As English is now considered the “universal language”, does bilingualism in French have any value in the recruitment process?  The answer is yes.

Being bilingual in French leads to more benefits than just raw human dialogue. It opens a new world of communication skills that are essential in the work place. As the world becomes a seemingly smaller place, the influence of the French language is becoming wider in tandem with the internet and new markets. For candidates in the job market, a grasp of the French language might be what it takes to shine out from the rest as its value is ever increasing.

As the world becomes more socially, economically and technologically connected, competence in languages such as French is increasingly important.  There are a total of around 355 million French speakers worldwide including new markets that are considered economically important in the near future. The French speaking market is eminent and drives up the demand for French speakers in the job market.


The French language is also opening new doors for international companies that were not considered valuable in the past. Half of the top-10 fastest growing countries in Africa have French as an official language and we can thus expect Africa to be an increasing focus of global trade and international relations.

Moreover, French is the third most used language on the internet ahead of Spanish. The internet has enabled entirely new forms of communication, research and business in recent years and is now considered a ‘basic need’. Bilingual candidates have goldmines of information at their fingertips that would otherwise be inaccessible to those relying on English.

Good communication skills are valued by many employers as “the most important of all life skills” and the candidate who can deal with a customer in their own language will without doubt have an edge. With the graduate job market crowded and a poor economic climate, bilingual communication skills are bordering on essential.  The recipe for successful communication skills is to understand the culture of the country you are doing business with which comes from being bilingual.

A grasp of the culture gives an understanding of acceptable behaviour and ethical differences that should be recognised for any real communication to take place. Miscommunications may have a serious impact on the success of the negotiation process. Whether it is following instructions or perceiving the motives of a client, it is essential in a working environment.

No one can deny the importance of the English language on an international scale however this does not reduce the value of French.  With the expanding Francophone sphere of influence combined with the necessary communication skills that accompany fluency, bilingual candidates shine out ahead of the rest.  The French language is therefore invaluable during the recruitment process and is becoming even more important with global development. Set yourself apart from the rest and learn French.

Facebook – est-il possible d’assurer notre confidentialité en ligne ?

Image via Steel Wool (Flickr)

Dû aux événements récents sur Facebook, notre idée de la confidentialité en ligne est remise en question.  Malgré le fait que Facebook continue à démentir les rumeurs, plusieurs internautes exigent que les messages privés soient  rendus publics. Que les allégations soient vraies ou fausses, c’est peut être le moment de considérer de plus près ce qu’on partage en ligne.

Selon quelques experts, le lancement récent de Timeline en France est à l’origine du bug allégué. Metro France, qui a publié la nouvelle en premier,  a rapporté que les messages privés datant de 2007, 2008 et 2009 apparaissaient directement sur la Timeline des utilisateurs. Encore pire, bien que vous pouvez supprimer les messages sur votre profil Facebook, les messages restent toujours sur les Timelines d’autres participants.

Chaque mois, on compte 71 millions de mises à jour de statut, 103 millions de postes publiés sur les murs des membres et 734 millions de messages envoyés sur Facebook en France.  Ces chiffres montrent le rôle toujours croissant de Facebook en tant que moyen de communication. Mais si notre confidentialité ne peut pas être assurée à 100%, qu’est-ce qu’on peut faire pour garder une vie privée sur Facebook ?

Pour conserver votre vie privée en ligne, voici quelques conseils : n’utiliser pas d’application mobile ; avant de vous connecter, supprimer vos cookies ; déconnecter après chaque utilisation et finalement configurer vos paramètres de confidentialité au plus strict et vérifier qu’ils le restent.

Bien entendu, on ne peut pas assurer votre confidentialité en ligne à 100% – sauf si vous ne partagez aucune information privée sur les réseaux sociaux, même les messages privés !

Qu’en pensez-vous? Est-ce vous vous méfiez des réseaux sociaux?

How to hone your telephone skills

In this day and age, new methods of communication are popping up all the time. More and more people use the internet, email, social media… but one old favourite just doesn’t go away. You’re hard put to find an adult in the western world these days who doesn’t have access to a phone and use it on a regular basis. Try as the competition might, the telephone won’t be giving up its share of the communications market any time soon.

Whether you’re trying to find something out, get your message across, or sell an idea, product or event, many work hours are spent on the phone for jobs in all sectors.  Hearing a voice on the phone is very often the first communication a customer has with a company, so effective phone communications skills are essential. For this reason, companies should pay just as much attention to the way in which their employees speak on the phone as they would to their website, product or customers. In short, the impression given over the phone is a vital component of the brand – don’t neglect it!

But talking on the phone is easy, why should you think about making any changes?

I spoke in a blog recently about the importance of body language, appearance and the way you speak in first impressions. First impressions are made over the phone just like they are in person, but two of these three most important factors are of course removed from the equation – meaning that the way that you speak becomes absolutely crucial. First meeting someone over the phone, you must use your voice, tonality and choice of words to build a rapport with your contact. So how exactly can you convey your professionalism and reliability through your voice alone? And what might you currently be doing to hinder your efforts?

Remember that a phone call, unlike many other modern methods of communication, is in real time. You can’t edit and rearrange your call as you go along, like you could with an email. This means that preparation is important. Know what you are aiming to find out, sell or communicate and how you are going to do it before you start dialling. If you are making it up as you go along, this will come across. Spontaneity may make you sound hesitant, underprepared and unprofessional and although occasional “ums” and other utterances that give us time to think are natural, try to keep them to a minimum. Just as you would proof-read an email or blog before clicking send, prepare so that you are ready for your conversation before you deliver it. Start off with a clear thoroughly and thorough introduction so that your addressee knows which name to match to your voice from the outset, following on with a clear message.

Last week, I called an international phone company to sort out a problem with a contract. It was an urgent issue and I hoped that a competent, attentive worker would address me from the other end of the line. Unfortunately, that was not the reality. The lady who answered the phone seemed rushed, impatient and disinterested. As she brightly said goodbye and wished me a good day however, I wondered if she had any idea of the impression she had left on me. A lot of the problems that I had with the aforementioned phone call can come across completely subconsciously. Take a deep breath before answering the phone. You want to sound energised, enthusiastic and interested so that your addressee knows you are taking them seriously. Deep breathing will also help you to pace your speech; there’s nothing worse than rushing or mumbling (or both!) making you seem nervous and difficult to understand. Pay attention to how you speak. It can be easy to concentrate on the other person (they are the one that you want something from, after all!) and to forget about your own speech. A good exercise if you feel you are guilty of this is to record a conversation you have – after getting the permission of the other person, of course!  Think about the pace of your speech, the clarity of your message and your tonality. If you have a strong regional accent, you may want to tone this down so that you are as clear as possible on the phone. It has been proven that we are subconsciously more likely to sympathise with those with accents closer to our own, so this may help you build up a rapport over the phone.

The flip side of listening to your own speech is of course listening to the speech of the other person. You owe them your full attention, so put everything else down before picking up the phone. If you don’t, your distraction will probably come across, whether or not you realise it. Now the next point may seem obvious, but listen to what they tell you! It can be tempting to concentrate on what you’re going to say next, but if you rush into your response, it may seem that you lack interest in what the other person is saying. Pausing before responding will show that you care and are taking them seriously.

All in all, the best advice to follow if you want to come across well on the phone is to be prepared and on the ball. Be aware of all the little aspects of speech that may add to the overall impression you give. This way, you will be able to use your voice and word choice actively to create a good rapport over the phone – one which might well develop into a good business rapport for the future!

Good Luck!