First impressions last: how to be memorable (in a good way)

No matter how good your resume is, how much you’ve prepared, or how skilled you are: the initial impression you give an interviewer will last throughout the selection process.

People form a general impression about each other, positive or negative, within the first few minutes of meeting. Considering how many people interviewers typically have to speak with over a day, creating the best first impression possible is an essential way to make yourself stand out from the herd. Here are some of the ways you can make that happen.

Dress to impress

The way you are dressed is one of the first things an interviewer will notice. Your outfit sends important messages about how you would represent the employer’s organization, so keep that in mind when choosing your interview attire. Generally, keep it straightforward and classic. For men, a dark suit and tie is the safest option if you are going to be working in an office environment. Women have a few more options available to them: you could wear a blouse, suit pants, a knee-length skirt, or a smart dress. Keep colors neutral with navy, grey, black, white, or cream, and don’t forget to keep makeup simple. Avoid wearing strong perfumes or colognes as some interviewers may find it distasteful or suffer from allergies. Ensure that your hair is clean, brushed, and styled, simple ponytail or bun for women or neatly brushed hair for men. Always remember the adage: dress for the job you want, not the job you have. That is, unless the position you want is superhero, no one wants to see you in a leotard.

Casual, Not Lazy

For some workplaces, a more casual look may be appropriate. If this is the case, remember there are key difference between casual casual and smart casual. For a smart casual outfit, you want to invest in high-quality clothes – these will look better, fit better, and you will also get more wear out of them. Take some extra time to choose clothes that fit you well and flatter your body shape – you want and outfit that looks good while helping you feel relaxed and confident. Collared polo shirts and chinos are a great option for men, while women can add a stylish suit jacket to a nice sundress or denim jeans for a classic smart casual look.

A Firm Handshake

Always go for the handshake upon entering an interview, with all members of an interview panel. The handshake is a powerful form of nonverbal communication in Western culture and the right kind of handshake will convey positive traits about you from the outset. Be sure to keep your right hand free and when it’s time to shake find the sweet spot between a very strong, overly dominant handshake and a very weak one – you want a firm, confident, but friendly shake.

Eye Contact

Focus on making eye contact with everyone in the interview room. This helps to create a genuine connection and meeting a person’s eye displays confidence. As with the handshake, try to strike the right balance. Too much eye contact can seem aggressive or even creepy, whereas too little will convey disinterest or submissiveness. Think about the way you would make eye contact with a good friend while they’re telling you a story and you have a pretty good model to work from.

Finding the Communication Balance

Your verbal communication during an interview may well be the most important aspect of the impression you make. But, unfortunately, it can be all too easy to make mistakes. Here are four common communication errors to avoid.

Talking about yourself too much: monologuing at a potential employer about yourself, your hopes, dreams, skills, and so on is a bad move. No one wants to work with an egocentric person and that’s how you’ll come off – even if it’s just nerves talking.

Talking about yourself too little: on the other hand, you can’t just freeze up and make the other person do all the conversational legwork. Give full, well thought out answers to questions, just avoid speeches and one-word answers.

Complaining: try not to complain or air grievances, even if they’re justified. Whether it’s about a former employee or the tough job market, keep things positive and avoid complaining.

Being too personal: bringing in a few personal details can help create rapport – maybe you and your interviewer both love the same TV show, or you spot a picture of them with their kids and mention you have two boys as well – but don’t get too personal! Relationship troubles, petty complaints, gossip, and so on should all be off the conversational table.

Next week we’ll look at the messages your body language send to potential employers, and how to use it to your advantage. Do you have any advice on creating a memorable first impression? Let us know on the Career Spotlight with CCI Training Facebook group.