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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 is so important. If you constantly look away
from someone it conveys two impressions. Either you are lacking in confidence or you are not
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
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
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.
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
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
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’’
‘’…..one of the reasons I applied is because my friend
Joe works here and said what a dynamic organisation it was. He really likes it
‘’…..that is really impressive sales
‘’…..I like the open plan office environment you have
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
‘’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.