Article 3 – Job interview preparation – How to look and act   



Stamford research department looked into what forms the basis of successful communication between individuals. The results were surprising. What you say accounted for just 10%. Your tone of voice accounted for 20%. The remaining 70% was body language and image. 

People will create an instant first impression of you within 5 and 30 seconds of your first meeting. That is a very short time in which to create a good impression! 

Fist impressions are made based on appearance, stance, body language, smile, eye contact and the way you speak. It is therefore so important to make a good first impression. 

However it is not necessarily a level playing field. It is unfortunately well documented that tall good looking men are much more likely to succeed in an interview and in their careers than shorter less good looking men. This is particularly true if your profession is selling. 

I say unfortunately because if you do not have that genetic advantage then you start with a disadvantage. 

Either way you need to make the most of your chance to create a good first impression. 

When you look at the percentages above you will realise that the first impression you give to an interviewer can be key to your success. This is even before the interview has even started. If you look the part you are half way there….and some!  

Once the first impression is established the interviewer will look to reinforce their initial thoughts. So every reply you give will be viewed in conjunction with that first impression in mind. Let us look at how we create a good first impression.  

What to wear and appearance:   

A safe rule of thumb is to wear darker clothes as opposed to light. It portrays a sense of seriousness. Avoid trying to be fashionable. It is best to dress in a conservative way. 

For a man this is usually reasonably easy to summarise. Wear a suit and tie! You cannot go wrong dressed in a dark suit, white shirt with ‘serious’ plain tie. For goodness sake do not wear a comical tie with a cartoon on it for example. It may be fine but is just as likely to portray the wrong image.  

Why take the chance? 

Wear the most expensive dark suit you can find. Make sure it is clean, ironed and fits. A job interview promises the reward of a better paid job. Make the investment! Buy a new white long sleeve shirt. Make sure you wear smart dark leather shoes, preferably black and definitely polished. 

If it turns out you are over dressed then this will not count against you. Anyone dressed too casual or not neat or tidy will do their chances plenty of harm. 


Make sure your hair is cut neatly and washed. Also it has been proven that facial hair will reduce your chances of success. Something about hiding behind it! It will not be the deciding factor, but if you are thinking of removing your beard do it before the interview!     

For women it is a little bit more complicated. Avoid lots of jewellery. It is distracting! Avoid the bright colours and stay conservative. Make sure the skirt isn’t too short or the blouse too low.  

Don’t try to be too individual. If you normally spike your hair up this could create the wrong impression. Being individual in your dress and presentation is at best risky and at worst disastrous.   

Posture and body language   

Make sure that your posture says ‘I exude confidence’. Not aggressive or over-powering just confident and self-assured. Improving your body language improves your attractiveness to other people. In previous chapters we discussed the need to visualise the interview and the feeling of self-confidence. 

If you fell self-confident this will transfer to your body language.    

Ideally you want your body language to reflect that of the interviewer. This will sub-consciously make them feel more at ease and comfortable. Of course this applies to all social situations not just interviewing. 

From the start sit up straight in the chair, do not slouch in your chair. If you have a confident posture then you will feel more confident. You will also give the ‘air of confidence’ to the interviewer. A confident straight posture also aids breathing which will help with nerves. Loosen up your shoulders so they feel relaxed. 

Do not cross your arms or legs, this looks defensive which puts a barrier between you and the interviewer. It also gives the impression of not caring. Whether this is your view or not doesn’t matter, because this is the impression it gives.  

Mirror body language   

The mirroring of their body language is a sure fire way to gain empathy with the other person. Practice this with other people you are talking to. If they lean back you try doing the same. People who are ‘comfortable’ in each other company will tend to have similar body language. 

Open hand gestures   

As part of using your body language effectively use open hand gestures. This implies you have nothing to hide and are being open and honest. The opposite of this is closed fists, a sign of aggression or nervousness. 


You must always try to smile. It creates such a good first impression. Don’t grin relentlessly it will make people nervous. Make it natural. If you do not smile naturally then practice smiling in the mirror. It is important that you do this right. 

During the interview you want to try to smile as often as possible. But do choose your moments. Grinning like a cat will look odd! If you smile the interviewer will smile. If they don’t respond back smiling don’t let this rattle you and keep persevering. 


Your handshake should be firm but not overpowering. You will never get penalized for having a firm handshake but a weak one will create a poor impression. This is however less important than the other factors.  

Eye contact   

Eye contact is so important. If you constantly look away from someone it conveys two impressions. Either you are lacking in confidence or you are not trustworthy. 

Make sure that you maintain eye contact with all the people you meet. Secondly throughout the interview maintain eye contact for a ‘natural’ length of time. This is about 50-60%. Too much and you will be form the impression of staring or being aggressive. Too little and you will be considered defensive or evasive. Keep it natural. 

Build rapport from the first moment   

Both parties in an interview are looking to feel comfortable with their opposite number. When two strangers meet in such a formal way there can be awkward silences and over politeness. 

In most interview situations the interviewer will come to the reception area to meet you and then take you through the building to the interview room, probably stopping off to grab a drink. 

These few minutes should always be used to make small talk and start to build a rapport. The interview starts, from the moment you meet the interviewer. It is not from the moment you enter the interview room and you are asked the first question. This is a crucial distinction.  

The interviewer has to like the person they are interviewing otherwise they are unlikely to get the job. In over 95% of the situations the interviewer will be working closely with the interviewee on a daily basis. 

It is important you use this time try to build rapport with the interviewer before you enter the interview room. Of course smiling and eye contact will help with this process. Make an effort to make conversation during this ‘pre-interview’ time.  

Imagine you meet the interviewer at reception, walk for two minutes to the interview room, sit down and there has been no small talk or rapport. Both of you will feel a little awkward. This is a poor start to the interview as you need to build rapport to stand the best chance of getting the role. 

Speak clearly   

Make sure you speak clearly and confidently. Communication skills are a key element for any successful candidate. If you think you mumble or your speech is poor then practice. Having prepared thoroughly for the interview will help in this aspect. 

Pay complements   

It is often left unsaid but by paying an interviewer a complement they will think better of you. So, do you tell them they have nice hair? No of course not.  

The complement should be low-key but get noticed. There should be opportunities when the interviewer is discussing the company, perhaps their recent expansion or their impressive sales growth.  

‘’…..that is one of the things that attracted me to applying to this company’’ 

‘’… of the reasons I applied is because my friend Joe works here and said what a dynamic organisation it was. He really likes it here.’’ 

‘’…..that is really impressive sales growth’’ 

‘’…..I like the open plan office environment you have here’’ 

Even a casual comment about the better quality of the coffee from the vending machines helps to build rapport. 

But be careful not to shoot yourself in the foot. 

‘’Your organisation has a much more professional working environment than my current one’’ 

This implies you come from an unprofessional one with weak management which is hardly a selling point for your skills.   

Complements need to sound natural because in an interview you are expected to be polite and complimentary.  

Prepare for the way you look and act. This needs to be in a professional and friendly manner. It is important because the first impression is crucial to your success.