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How important are first impressions in an interview?

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First impressions are infinitely important at an interview. Research has shown that it can take less than a second for a person to form an opinion of you based on your physical appearance, body language, attitude, clothes and mannerisms.

Human beings have evolved to make huge assumptions about one another’s health, success, intelligence, competence, trustworthiness, temperament and wealth based on first impressions, and these can be very hard to change.

This is because we are less inclined to want to meet another person again if we already have a negative opinion of them, and humans also don’t like to admit that they were initially wrong. Psychology Today explains that “maintaining an erroneous notion, such as a first impression, actually causes less anxiety than admitting an error and adopting another position.”

This is potentially great news for job seekers. If you make a good first impression, your interviewer is very likely to keep it unless you do something to prove them wrong. In an interview situation, your first impression can arguably be just as important as preparing to ace the questions.

Here’s how to nail those crucial first few seconds.

Be on time

Want to give a terrible first impression? Don’t give your interviewer the opportunity to make a snap decision about you before you’ve even walked through the door. Arrive a few minutes early and make sure you’re not out of breath and red-faced from the sprint there.

Dress appropriately

Not every job interview requires a suit. If the dress code at your potential new place of work is casual, then turning up looking ready to appear on an episode of The Apprentice is an effective way of putting your interviewer off. Make sure you research the office culture and dress slightly smarter than you would for a normal day at the office – just make sure you’re looking very well-groomed and put together and you’ll exude professionalism.

Turn off your phone

It can be tempting to reach for your smartphone when you’re waiting at an interview, or anywhere else for that matter. Put your phone away and get your head in the game straight away so you’re not caught off guard when your interviewer arrives.

Smile and make eye contact

The quickest way to give someone a positive opinion of you is to smile straight away. Aim for open, confident and warm, rather than “a false, cheesy grimace slapped across your face – they will know it is fake and masking nerves, arrogance or nonchalance,” say Business Insider.

Shake hands with everyone

“The handshake is the universally accepted signal of professionalism, politeness and confidence,” adds Business Insider. Make sure you acknowledge and shake hands with everyone – not just the main interviewer if there are several of them – as accidentally ignoring someone is a quick way to turn them against you.

Introduce yourself

Associate yourself immediately and positively with the pile of notes about you they have on the table in front of them with a simple ‘Hello, I’m —.’ Don’t be afraid to make the first move and be the one to initiate introductions too, as it shows confidence and suggests you’re excited to be there.

Research your interviewer on LinkedIn

Checking out the LinkedIn profile of the person who will be trying to impress will give you a sense of the sort of person they are in advance and what traits they might like in another person – people are often unconsciously drawn to people like themselves. Remember they’ll already know quite a lot about you already, so it puts you on a more even footing. It will also give you some ideas for conversation starters.

Be nice to the receptionist

Don’t just reserve your best self for the interviewer. Be polite and friendly to everyone in the building – employers often ask the receptionist or other employers for their opinion too.

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