“It takes only three to five seconds to make a first impression, but it can take a whole career to undo it.”
– Dana May Casperson
While Casperson’s statement may seem harsh, it is not far from the truth. In fact, researchers across multiple fields set the time range at 7-30 seconds, depending on who you ask. For a job interview where an employer is seeking to learn about you quickly? Let’s suffice it to say, you better act fast.
There are a lot of factors to consider when preparing for an interview, and all of them can lay heavy on your mind for hours after the interview is complete, so here are some simple things you can do to avoid distracting elements, and ensure your first impression leaves a lasting mark for the right reasons.
This detail will probably be the most obvious piece of the puzzle. Maintaining hair and bodily hygiene is the easiest way to ensure the interviewer notices you rather than your appearance. Hair should be pulled back away from the face and free of any excess oils or products, and your body should be fresh and clean without any overwhelming cologne or perfume odors. If you know you will get nervous at the last minute, be sure to apply an extra layer of deodorant. Some hiring managers may be allergic to certain strong odors, so be conservative with any scented products.
Similarly, your clothing should serve as a frame for your body. If an employer does not notice anything beyond a general sense of professionalism about your outfit, you have done your job well. First and foremost, ensuring that your clothing is neatly pressed and has no creases from the original department store packaging demonstrates that you are well-prepared for the meeting. For men and women, a blue or black suit are most appropriate with subtle jewelry or a necktie. For women, in particular, there are a lot more options with blouses, skirts, pants, and dresses, but the key is to make your outfit flattering, not noticeable.
When it comes to posture, there are two great ways to subconsciously make that great first impression. The first way is to stay on the edge of your seat at all times. This position demonstrates desire and interest to an employer as well as helps you keep your attention focused on the task at hand. The other great way goes back to the clothing again. Nothing exudes confidence like deliberate movements. If your clothing fits properly and you can avoid adjusting your suit coat, pulling down your too-short skirt, or walking awkwardly on your super-high heels, you are much more likely to succeed with your general posture and demeanor.
- Facial Expression
Whether we like it or not, we all have a tendency to wear our hearts on our sleeves at one time or another, and for many that time is during an interview. Be sure to take deep breaths and think positive thoughts throughout your interaction so that any unnecessary stress does not show up on your face. If you tend to get nervous and sweat during interviews, bring along a handkerchief to wipe your forehead before entering the office to keep extra beads of sweat from building up on your hairline.
Contrary to popular belief, the most powerful part of your handshake is not in your grip; it is in your eyes. A firm, confident handshake is a delicate balance somewhere between a wet noodle and an arm wrestling match, but making eye contact is what will really seal the deal. The moment you know your hand is in the right position for the greeting, look up at your interviewer and demonstrate just how certain you are that this is the job for you. That fraction of a second of eye contact could be the trigger that leaves an employer wanting to know more about you.
All five of these suggestions are simple things that we already do. By maintaining awareness of these little changes, we can stretch an employer’s attention beyond those first few seconds into the meat of the interview where you will have the opportunity to explain your qualifications.
Written by: Melanie Diffey
Melanie Diffey is a Career Services Specialist with Ashford University who specializes in the application and interview processes. She has been working in higher education for seven years, and she loves to help students find their niche in school as well as the workforce.