Thursday, December 13, 2007

First Impressions

Do First Impressions Count? You Bet They Do!

You would be very surprised at what can be ascertained from the first few moments in some ones presence. An interviewer or employer will discover a great deal about you in a relatively small amount of time by use of their experience in body language. It’s a bit like when you make new friends, generally speaking you know within a few moments of meeting a person for the very first time whether you will like them or not (despite knowing very little about their background). I personally think it is some form of basic primate instinct. So your first few seconds are fairly vital when you walk into that interview room or are greeted by your employer. We all give out different signals and these can be influenced by the way you dress to your body language. In my opinion good body language starts with a firm handshake (that’s firm - don’t shake their hand off!) and being smartly dressed. Don’t bathe in perfume or aftershave as strong smells often give off an overpowering smell and can be very off putting. Not everyone has the same taste in cologne and there is nothing worse than being stuck in a room with a smell that makes you feel ill. It’s always best to be clean and neutral!
Prior To Attending Your Job Interview:

It’s always a good idea (and I think a courteous one which shows manners and initiative) to confirm with your prospective interviewer the interview arrangements by letter once you have been invited to attend the interview. This doesn’t need to be a long winded letter it can just be brief confirming the time and place of the interview. It also gives you the opportunity to send in any documents that the interviewer may wish to see in advance or anything you may have omitted to send when you originally enclosed your CV and job application form.
Dress Code - What Clothes Should You Wear For Your Job Interview?

It’s always a tough call when trying to decide what to wear for a job interview. Traditionally men always wore their smartest suit and tie and the same could be said for women – either a nice skirt and blouse or a suit. However things have changed a lot since the old days, for example if you are going to work for an IT firm or Graphic Designers then the dress code may be smart but casual - by the same token if you are going to work for a firm of Solicitors, Accountants or Insurance Brokers then the chances are the dress code is going to be formal so it can be a hard call to decide what to wear for your interview. If you are applying for an internal job then this won’t apply to you as you will already know what standard of outfit is or isn’t acceptable at your place of work. There are two fairly simple ways to ascertain what type of dress code your potential future employer demands and these are as follows:
1.Drive up to the offices or workplace at a time when the staff will be arriving or leaving – this will give you a good indication of what types of clothes the other employees are wearing.

2. Pick up the phone and ring up the interviewers’ secretary and ask her what is the typical dress code of the company – as previously mentioned secretaries generally speaking are always keen to offer assistance to the “newbie’s”!
As a pointer it’s always a good idea to “Dress Above The Rest” at an interview – remember you are out to make a special impression so although you will want to fit in if you get the job you need to be appointed first! So a pretty simple rule - if the companies dress code is casual then you need to be dressed casually but a little smarter, for example if the other employees are wearing trousers and open neck shirts then it would be a good idea for you to wear trousers, a tie and a smart jacket. If the dress code is a suit and tie then you need to wear your best suit and tie – get the picture it’s pretty easy for you to judge for yourself. Another good point is when you are invited into the interview don’t ever remove your jacket without be asked. If the room is hot – well quite frankly that’s just a bit of tough luck. I have to admit I have always kept my jacket on even when my interviewer has offered for me to remove it – my reason being that we all perspire during stress and there is nothing worse than seeing perspiration marks around the arms of your shirt!! So what type of clothes should you wear at your interview? Well it’s an individual’s choice really. However I would steer well clear of bright outrageous ties if you are a man as not every interviewer will share your love of cartoon characters such as the Simpson’s - try and settle on neutral colours. Finally as previously mentioned it’s a bad idea to wear overpowering aftershave or perfume – it can be very off putting to others.
On Arrival At Your Job Interview:

If you are organised you will have arrived at your interview in good time and if so you will have a few moments to compose yourself and utilise the rest room before your big moment. If at the office there are some bathrooms in the waiting area (or if not just ask someone to direct you to them) go and make a few final checks on your appearance. You might want to comb your hair, use the lavatory (make sure you do up your zippers) or adjust your make up if you are a lady. This time will give you the opportunity to make sure you are ship shape and looking a million dollars, it will also give you reassurance so that once you are in the interview you don’t have to worry about whether you have done your zips up or whether your hair looks tidy – issues that are important but that you don’t want to have to worry whilst trying to win over the interviewer. It’s always a good idea if you have a briefcase and are wearing a tie to take a spare just in case you spill something down it before going into the interview. It’s easily done I was once attending an interview and on the way I stopped to drink a can of coke as I had arrived early. To say I was mortified when I spilt it down my tie is an understatement. I had no spare and apologised profusely to my interviewer who was very kind and said it didn’t matter but I still spent the entire interview worrying about it and my performance was definitely hindered by it. A lesson learned to say the least!
When Your Interviewer Comes Out To Take You Into The Interview – Or When You Are Called Into The Interview Room:

OK, in my opinion this is the most stressful time of the interview – and when my heart beats the most! This is the time when you are entering the unknown – new surroundings, new people (sometimes as many as four or five) a strange room. As I have stated before you need your maximum concentration at this point as “First Impressions” do count. So how do you greet your interviewer? Firstly look your interviewer in the eyes and smile, everyone likes a smiley face, I don’t mean beam like a Cheshire cat - just a pleasant friendly smile. Secondly, offer your hand out to shake (remember don’t squeeze the interviewers hand until it turns blue – just a firm professional handshake) and offer a greeting (“Hello very pleased to meet you” or something like that). Your interviewer will then either take you into the interview room (or you may already be in there as you have been called in) and offer you a seat. Please do not just sit down when you enter the room, wait to be offered a seat – it’s good manners.

The interview is going to start along the lines of chit chat, you will probably be asked how you journey was etc, etc and then offered a drink. Depending on the type of person you are and how well you cope with nerves (and remember we all have them, from the person applying for a job flipping burgers in a burger house to the Executive applying for a new £ 250K per year position) it’s up to you whether you decide to accept a drink. You won’t be thought of any less should you not accept a drink (and if you think your hands are going to be shaking like a coconut tree in a hurricane every time you pick your cup up) it’s probably a good idea to decline. That way you won’t chance spilling the liquid all down your front should you really lose your nerves!

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