We’ve all heard the adage that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and even in today’s world of business-casual or just plain casual, it’s still true. Think about what you notice in a person the first time you see them – what they’re wearing, mannerisms, facial expressions, cleanliness, even trustworthiness – it all registers instantly, and once the impression is made, it can be nearly impossible to shake. To help you make a killer first impression, we’ve compiled five helpful tips to set off an interview or networking event on the right foot. Keep these tips in mind before your next encounter with someone new.
- Be On Time You would think this is a given, but many still show up late for interviews or events. For an interview, showing up late immediately puts the potential employer on alert – if you can’t be on time for an interview, how can I expect you to be on time for work on a daily basis? If the interviewer is running late, the fact that you were there early puts you in a good light. The interviewer will sincerely apologize, and now you have a slight upper hand in how the interview will go. For networking events, don’t let the worry of being the first one there scare you. Even if you are, you now get the second, third and fourth guests undivided attention, and that could potentially yield huge dividends.
- Appearance This one has become tricky in recent years. While you should always appear neat, tidy and well-dressed, the definition of well-dressed can completely depend on what job you’re applying for. A good rule of thumb is to look at the company website you’re applying for. How are the leaders of the company dressed for their profile pictures? If they’re in full professional wardrobe, wear professional wardrobe. Match business-casual with business-casual. And if they’re dressed creative casual, do the same, but elevate it a bit, as you’re still the interviewee and want to show respect for the position through your attire. Regardless of the dress code, also think to add an element of personality. The interviewer wants to see the real you, and even in professional attire, a small nod to your personality, whether it’s a bracelet, necklace or pair of shoes, can show them a small part of your true self and even become a talking point.
- Body Language It’s understandable to be nervous at an interview or networking event, but you must keep your body language open, friendly and inviting to conversation. Keep in mind that no matter how nervous you feel on the inside, you can easily mask it through proper body language. A good technique is to mimic the body language of the person you’re talking to. If they look relaxed and smiling, do the same. If they tend to lean forward in conversation, by mirroring them, you will look just as engaged. If they talk with their hands, don’t sit with your hands in your lap or firmly at your side. Your body language should focus on making the person you’re talking to feel comfortable with you. While some of it may not be your natural tendencies, subtle mirroring can help break the ice and get you both to a place of better connectivity.
- Pay Attention This one goes hand-in-hand with body language. You need to show that you’re interested and actively engaged. Make sure to keep eye contact, and not let your eyes wander around the room. Mentally, don’t get distracted by tangents. At both an interview and a networking event, you are there for a specific reason. Keep the conversation focused on the task at hand or the knowledge you wish to share or gain.
- Prep for the Conversation For interviews, write out a list of questions that will complement the company and give you insight into job responsibilities and expectations, the culture of the company, and what they feel will make someone successful for the position in which you’re applying. Also write out answers to questions you expect to hear, like what are your long-term goals? Where do you see yourself in five years? And why do you think you are the top candidate for the job? For both interviews and networking events, practice conversation. Grab a friend, family member or spouse and role play. If no one is available, practice conversation in front of a mirror – don’t feel shy, you’re the only one who can see you. The more you practice conversation, the more comfortable you’ll feel when the actual interview or event comes.