Job interviews – making that important first impression

Most people decide within the first few minutes of meeting a person whether or not they like them and that judgement can be hard to shake once you make a negative impression. Here’s how to make a great first impression.

Good presentation is most important, whether you are applying to be a CEO or a factory worker, how you dress says a lot about you. Avoid miniskirts, tight sweaters, sloppy overalls and sandals with straps. Check for holes, tears, stains, scuffs or wrinkles. Tone down the use of makeup, hair spray, perfume and jewellery. Check your hair, nails, hems and the shine on your shoes.

You will have only one shot at making a good first impression; it’s better to dress too formally than to dress too casually. Trendy is fine, as long as you keep your style subtle. Clothes can make a strong statement about you.

Make sure you know the location of the interview, have a practice run so that you know how much time you will need to get there and where to park. Remember your interviewer’s name and title. Always arrive at least ten minutes early so that you can be calm and organised in your thoughts before the interview begins. Be pleasant and say hello to the secretary or receptionist, it is not only good manners but this person may have a lot of influence and hopefully will be a future co-worker.

Bring your CV with you plus some spares as well as any letters of reference you may have incase the person interviewing you, doesn’t have them handy. Try to be relaxed, don’t cross your arms or legs as you will appear defensive. Keep your head up and hands and face at ease, smile and always look your interviewer in the eye.

Be prepared, try to learn a little about the company – what their business is, their target clients and market. Do some research on the internet and libraries for current information. Have a few relevant questions ready to ask and make sure you listen carefully to the answers.

Some questions you may be asked follow so be prepared with some answers:

  • What are your future career plans?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why did you choose your field of work?
  • What are your three major strengths?
  • What are your three major weaknesses?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Why does this particular job appeal to you?
  • What are your salary requirements?
  • Would you consider yourself to be a team player? Give me examples.
  • What kind of work interests you?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • What jobs/subjects in school have you enjoyed the most/least?
  • Don’t be pushy but give the impression that you are already part of the team by using terms such as ‘we’ when something is done for example “How do we deal with a supply problem?”

    One good technique to employ when answering the interviewer’s questions is to make sure you describe the:


    TAsk you were doing

    ACtions you took and

    REsult of it all.

    Say it to yourself as you go through your answer so you can make sure that you have covered everything that is relevant. If you are nervous, admit to it. It shows you’re honest and they will understand. Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer(s) to repeat their questions if you get halfway through an answer and lose your way.

    Some things to avoid:

    • Arriving late to an interview
    • Lack of courtesy
    • Poor personal appearance
    • No apparent interest in the company
    • No eye contact
    • Strong prejudices
    • Failure to express appreciation for the interviewer’s time
    • Speaking poorly of your last job/boss
    • Poor voice, diction or grammar
    • Being overly aggressive or overbearing
    • Limp handshake
    • Lack of enthusiasm
    • Expecting too much too soon
    • Sloppy application form/resume
    • Ambiguous responses to questions

    Finish the interview with a positive statement and a quick firm handshake and follow up with a thank you note the next day. A good tip to keep in mind – don’t ask about money on the first interview.

    Remember, one of the biggest problems recruiters recognise today is that people hire on their gut instincts – if they like you, they like you. They may not even be able to say why they hire one person over another but it opens a window of opportunity for you to impress over and above your CV or your experience.

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