Most jobs are offered to people after the employer has given all of the first 5 seconds to evaluate the applicant. That means that the first 5 seconds of the interview are the most crucial.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
What can you do to make that initial impression good? There are actually several things. They start immediately, as you stand and start toward the person interviewing you.
- Present yourself confidently – Pay attention to your posture. The best presentation is created with standing straight, not rigid, and smiling. Direct eye contact is also very important. Looking down or away indicates you are not poised, that you are nervous.
- Be responsive – If you have confidence, you should be more equal to the person with whom you are interviewing. That means you can initiate contact. Already you can see eye contact is important. Don’t be afraid to look at the person you are meeting right away and smiling even before the person smiles at you. You may offer your hand for a handshake first, too. And, the handshake must be firm. Shake with good pressure; don’t be weak or limp handed.
- Be pleasant – And, think about setting the tone of the interview as much as the interviewer. Everyone is nervous–yes, even the interviewer. If you think about the other person, you might realize you can create rapport and put them at ease. The more at ease you make the interviewer, the more the interviewer will like you. Say, “How are you?” with enthusiasm. Mention the weather. Make a small joke.
All of the above will create a favorable impression. You will make yourself human, likable, and sure. Your demeanor should be kind and friendly. The worst impression you can give is one of fear and weakness or one of bravado and cockiness.
Where do I sit?
If you are being interviewed in an office, there may be more than one chair for you to sit down in. Then you might wonder whether or not to sit across from the desk or beside the desk. The best thing to do is stand and wait until the interviewer indicates which chair you should use. If the interviewer does not do so, then you should choose a chair that is less formal and friendly, which would mean not across from the interviewer with the desk between you. If you sense the interviewer is very formal, which is not often the case, you can always ask which seat you are to use: “Where would you like me?”
If you meet an interviewer somewhere near your home, especially if the interviewer is younger–a recent graduate, for instance–you may find yourself in a restaurant or in a public library. If you are not in an office, you need not wait standing for the interviewer to indicate a seat. You probably don’t want to sit down first either, but you should self-select a seat. The key is to keep in mind you don’t want to be too close which can invade the other’s comfort zone, but you don’t want to appear distant or shy. Sit beside the person but push your chair back or to the side so you can make comfortable eye contact.
The best way to sit is with your back and shoulders comfortably straight. Do not cross your arms or hunch your shoulders; remain “open” to the interviewer. Hold your head up. Cross your legs unless you have on a skirt, in which case it is best to sit with your two feet on the floor, ankles and knees together. If you are in pants and you are a man, do not cross one knee with the ankle of your other leg, one knee thrown out.
Non-verbals Speak Louder Than Words
You may think what you say is very important, but actually the way you say it is even more important. This is a visual world so a lot of what you communicate is through gesture and posture as well as facial expression. That smile you have on your face as you start the interview should be employed throughout the interview. You need to look at your interviewer with interest—not intensity. Eyes narrow and widen indicate interest and that you are hearing. In other words, it’s okay to let your facial expressions show and help you tell about yourself.
Movement is also important. You are not at attention, and stiffness can indicate lack of personality, fear, or indifference. The only problem with movement is if it is too rambunctious. Think about keeping your arm movement within the zone of your torso and not letting your hands flutter. Another problem with movement is if it is repetitive or nervous. Crossing and uncrossing your legs is a problem. Using the same hand gesture over and over is like using a word too much. Try to be poised and considered in your movement, but don’t let that consideration keep you form moving at all.
Aside from crossing your arms and slouching, other non-verbals to avoid are staring, scowling, narrowing your eyes, clenching your teeth, pointing your finger at the interviewer, slapping your knee, holding onto the edge of the chair, sitting in the edge of the chair, reaching into the interviewer’s space, chewing gum, or hanging you head.
The effect of non-verbals is to appear relaxed and friendly. You should also be open to the other person, indicated by eye contact and leaning toward, not away from him or her.
Answering the Questions
You are not simply providing answers to the questions the interviewer asks of you, as in a test. You are really making conversation with the interviewer with the help of questions. The conversation should flow, be reciprocal, and be self-revealing. The conversation is also two-way. Although the interviewer is the conductor, s/he is not the sole one at work. You need to work, too, to make the interview go well.
This all means that you need to give full answers. Provide your own take on things, being personable and friendly, and show a sense of humor. You are putting the interviewer at ease and showing him/her what type of person you are. You may be filling in some background and indicating your interests as well, but mostly you want the interviewer to like you and to remember you.
One-word answers are not good. Short answers are not good. Being only serious and never showing another side to yourself does not show personality. Saying only what you think the interviewer wants to hear and not sharing what you have really experienced or thought in your life will not distinguish you.
You need to ask questions about the school and the interviewer’s views of the school to show interest and curiosity. You need to be honest and easy-going while still be respectful. You should be able to react to what the interviewer ventures. For example, if the interviewer expresses an interest in movies, ask her what she likes and be able to talk about your favorite films. It is give and take. Show you have things to say and that you are comfortable making conversation with another adult.
Finally, although you should be friendly, you should not use colloquial or too-casual language. Don’t say: “Yeah” or “Uh-uh.” Say: “Yes” and “No.” Your language does not have to be high-falutin’, but you should sound bright and polite.
Ending the Interview
The interviewer should be comfortable with ending the interview. It is usually winding down when the interviewer asks if you have questions. One last question you should have is if you can have the interviewer’s business card or address.
The interviewer, when he or she thinks you are done with your questions, will then rise. This is your cue to rise with the interviewer and shake hands. You should also thank the interviewer for the opportunity to meet. The interviewer may remain seated and say how pleasant it was to meet you. You need to reply enthusiastically that you were happy to meet him and make the fist movement to rise. After thanking the interviewer and shaking hands, walk confidently out, looking back with a smile, not escaping as fast as you can with not look back.
Once the interview is complete you’ll need to follow up, but for now you can celebrate another obstacle tackled in the college admission process!