You are being judged on everything you do and say from the moment you hit send on a job application. For some hiring managers nonverbal communication can be even more important than the words you choose to say. In addition to preparing for interview questions, do not overlook these important unspoken messages you might be sending.
First Impressions Last
The first few moments of an interview, including your arrival, can leave a lasting impression on your interviewer. The feeling you give them when you first arrive may make a difference in how much time they spend with you conducting the interview. Keep these tips in mind:
- Arrive on time. It’s often difficult to bounce back from a late arrival to an interview. If you absolutely must be late, make sure to call and apologize profusely. Some hiring managers will not even consider a job candidate who arrives late, so do whatever you can to get yourself there on time.
- Dress a little better than you’d have to for the job. Investigate the dress code (it’s okay to ask) and make sure to dress a little better than required. Many hiring managers expect an interviewee to put their best face forward during an interview, and then pull back when they’re on the job, so it’s important to dress to impress.
- Keep neat and conservative. Avoid heavy, daring makeup and hair choices. Also keep the perfume to a minimum to avoid offending sensitive interviewers. You want to dress neutrally so that your personality is the feature that shines.
- Smile. You’ll want to do this throughout the interview, but make sure from the moment you step out of your car that you have a smile plastered on your face. Most hiring managers consider a friendly demeanor to be high on their list of wants in a new hire.
- Have a strong handshake. There are a lot of people who will judge you on your handshake. Make sure it’s confident, strong and comfortable. Weak handshakes, and painful ones, are huge turnoffs in the business world.
Remain Personable but Reserved
There is a fine line between showing your personality, and therefore connecting with your audience, and going so far that you alienate them. If you’re concerned about where you fit on this spectrum, see if a friend of a friend is willing to help you practice your skills. Try to remember the following guidelines:
- Eye contact goes a long way. Maintaining eye contact shows a person you are paying attention to what they’re saying and you want to connect with them. It can be uncomfortable for some people, but if you avoid looking your interviewer in the eyes, they are much less likely to find a connection with you.
- Body language speaks loudly. Regardless of how you feel the most comfortable, avoid crossing your arms. It sends a closed off message. Be sure to also sit up straight and keep both feet on the floor – no crossing your legs.
- Keep hand gestures under control. It’s okay to speak with your hands, but keep it small and close to your body. If you typically wave your arms about wildly when being expressive, try folding your hands in your lap or gripping your knees with one hand.
- Avoid ticks. Making strange noises, constantly touching your face, tapping the table and similar ticks can be extremely irritating to an interviewer and can make you seem off putting or odd.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
The best tip for avoiding a negative perception at a job interview is by preparing as thoroughly as possible. In addition to practicing in mock interviews, it’s a good idea to videotape yourself during one of these practice sessions. Being told you push your hair behind your ear a lot is not as jarring as seeing it yourself. If you do notice a habit you want to avoid, practice avoiding it all the time. You could also try practicing your interview in the outfit you intend to wear so that you are sure to be comfortable with the specifics on the day of.
Remember that a job interview is an opportunity for you to find out more about the company as much as it is an opportunity for them to learn about you. They never would have invited you to come in if they didn’t think you’d make a good candidate for the position. Hold onto that confidence throughout the interview and you’ll do well.