How to make a good first impression in an interview: Tips from Hollywood

What can you do in the first few crucial minutes of your interview to make a great first impression? HR expert and soft skills trainer, Glancy, shares some advice.
 


How to make a good first impression in an interview

by Glancy Albuquerque

 
The first few minutes can be nerve wrecking. You walk into the interview cabin and you’re not sure who you’re going to find.

There could be one, two or more than three people ready to meet with you. They could be ready to dialogue amicably and get to know you better OR they may be there to stress you to know you better.

Your nerves are rattled.

Take all who are – your ability, your skills, your accomplishments and your humanity into the interview with you.  Psyche yourself with positive pep talks to boost your self-confidence.

Smile.  Smile through your eyes. It invites others to get to know you.

Make eye contact with all the people you see.

Move across halfway to shake hands with each person.  Shake hands firmly.

Enter the interview room with enthusiasm and energy, both of which can help to mask your nervousness.

Maintain an open posture (line your shoulders up with the shoulders of the person you are meeting) as you shake hands with each individual in the room.

If possible, walk around the side of the table or desk to shake hands; try not to have a barrier between you and the person you are meeting.

Introduce yourself using your first and last name as you shake hands (at least to the first person, if there are several people on the interview team), and, say your first and last name as you shake hands.

Introductions will be made – get the names right.  It is okay to ask people to repeat their names so that you get the correct pronunciation when addressing them.  People like it and feel respected when another makes a sincere attempt to get their names right.

As I write this article, my mind is mulling over the wonderful interview scene from “The Pursuit of Happyness”. It’s a brilliant depiction of an interview and I use the scene as a case study for body language among other soft skilled learnings during my sessions.

It would be great if you took a few more minutes to watch the scene and them resume reading this article. I could write a million words, but I do believe that watching 3 minutes of that interview you will learn quicker and easier.

Will Smith (plays the role of Chris Gardner) walks into a cabin, very poorly attired – he’s having a real bad day, he’s got paint all over- his hair, face, neck and he’s had to literally run to make it to the interview to his dream job, dressed at his worst!

Still, despite all the odds, in the less than three minutes of the interaction, he nails the job.

I won’t break it down for you in this article – look and see for yourself.

Video Clip

I will only list some elements he covered in the scene:

  • Calming himself – you see him at the reception – emotionally upset – he says a quick prayer and stands up to walk into the firm offices –focusing inward, he calms himself.
  • He absorbs the atmosphere – in the few seconds that he walks through the work floor, he’s taking it all in – the noise, the fever, the energy.
  • Manners &Respect – he takes a moment to thank the lady who escorts him. Notice that she never looks him down, never exhibits any disdain– I love the professionalism.   Very often, we tend to ignore the people who we consider lesser than us.  Our behavior towards people whom we do not consider important says more of us than we realize.
  • Your etiquette and people skills can make the difference between an adequate performance and one that will launch you.
  • Your attitude and behavior toward others are as important as your resume, experience, training and technical abilities.

    Too many job candidates fail to realize that employers are selecting individuals who have not only job-related experience, but who they believe will be a good fit in their business family. 

    They are looking for the human qualities that make the difference in business relationships: courtesy, respect, trust and reliability.

    Manners and respect are the underlying foundation of good relationships, and good relationships translate to business success.

    How do your manners measure up?

  • Understanding the values & ethics of the firm – very quickly Will takes control of the pregnant silence and throws in the values the firm uploads – he’s done his homework clearly.
  • His child-like honesty and forth-rightness;un-apologetic self-confidence, a beautiful selling pitch and last but not the least; he displayed wit and brilliance with his closing answer.

 
In barely three minutes, he turned around a battle which we, the audience and the panel believed him to have already lost, into a winning match.

Trust me, you will need to watch this excerpt again and again to make sure you’ve noted the elements I’ve listed.

Will engages you, connects with you and you end up either identifying with him or wanting to be him.

You will start by feeling sorry for Will’s character at the start, embarrassed for his circumstance and elated for his victory.

If you do miss any elements that I’ve listed or you need to discuss, do ping me, I’d love to hear from you.

The first 30 seconds of an interaction make a visual impact, I am not saying that you need to dress shabby and then magically make a turn-around in your favour – that rarely happens.

Don’t put on an act – Don’t take a financial paper if you don’t have a substantiated opinion on finances.

Don’t look worried or indifferent!People don’t like to see a worried face. A neutral, open and cheerful face is much more pleasant.

It is very important to make a positive impact in every personal interaction, and every impact is different – could be visual, auditory, emotional.

It’s your body language, your self-confidence which sets the tone of your interaction.

Remember: Communication is only 7% is verbal, the rest 93% of communication is non-verbal.   Focus on the 93% – it speaks volumes for you.

Body Language Speaks VolumesSit up straight and plant your feet firmly on the floor during an interview.

You may think that a relaxed pose will show your confidence, but it shows, instead, a lack of respect or interest.

Don’t sit with both hands in your lap beneath the table–you will look like a nervous child. Rest an arm on the arm of your chair or on the table.

Do not fidget in your chair, cross your legs, or wring your hands, and try not to use too many hand gestures.

The way and what of your speech needs constant preparation.  Pace, volume, diction, language need constant work.

Practice your content.  Here’s a simple enough question which I pose to new IT minds: “How would you explain the concept of a database to a 3-year-old?

Most of the responses are unsatisfactory. Very few creative.

How would you answer: “Could you tell us about a time when you doubted your abilities?”

Very important – LISTEN to what is being asked of you.

Very often, we do not try to understand; our intent is only to respond.

Answer to the point – clear, clean, concise. Do not beat around the bush – it is not appreciated.

Listening is the most important skill and we are getting worse at it.

Do not interrupt!

As a last tip, remember, very few things go un-noticed.

Behave as if you are always in the spotlight.
 
About the author: Glancy has been working with a multinational conglomerate (Siemens Technology & Financial Services P. Ltd.) as a Finance Analyst/Professional – in the cross domains of Finance and IT. With a career spanning 25 years, she has rich and varied experience across various corporate and diplomatic missions. She is also an HR expert and conducts Learning & Development programmes internally, as a counsellor / soft skills trainer. She holds degrees in Information Technology, Human Resources, English Literature, Psychotherapy & Counselling.


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