We’ve all heard the phrase “first impressions are everything.” To an extent, this is absolutely true. The way you present yourself when meeting someone for the first time will be the first time they decide whether or not they want to keep you in their life. Your body language, speech, and awareness of others all combine to create the persona you project to the world. Slouching, mumbling or using slang, and not paying attention to social norms is a surefire way to fall off a potential employer’s radar. If you want to make an interviewer feel like they should keep you around, you should pay attention to the following:
1. Your body language
Without saying a single word, your interviewer can tell a lot about you by your body language. If you strut into the office and slouch down in your seat, you give off the impression that you aren’t taking the interview, or the job, very seriously. Walking in with a smile on your face and an outstretched palm will show that you’re happy to be there, and ready to make a true connection with the person you’re meeting. While that piece of advice probably goes without saying, you also should wait to be asked to sit. It may seem old fashioned, but it shows that you’re keeping others in mind before your own self.
2. Speak confidently
When you introduce yourself, and throughout the interview, speak with importance in each word. Remember: You’re not meeting your friends out for a drink; you’re trying to impress someone who’ve never met before. Speak slowly and clearly, and use complete sentences. Don’t be afraid to think before you speak. This will not only give your interviewer a chance to finish his thought completely, but it will also allow you to avoid awkward “um” and “uh” moments. Furthermore, when you think before jumping into an answer and speak slowly and rhythmically, your reduce the risk of your interviewer not catching everything you had to say. When you speak with confidence, your interviewer will know you believe in yourself and the abilities you’ll bring to the company.
3. Be socially and culturally aware
When meeting someone for the first time, be aware of the local culture, as well as the culture of the industry. Many times, innocuous comments can often be misconstrued and will cause others to misjudge you. Be careful of using humor upon first meeting an individual; you have no idea where they’ve been in life or what they’ve experienced. A statement that may seem innocent to you may actually be offensive to someone else. It also could reveal biases that you didn’t even realize you held.
As far as the business industry is concerned, you should always know the demographics of a company before you interview with them. Is it a startup business put together by a few twenty-somethings, or is it a long-running Fortune 500 company? Although in both situation you’ll want to carry yourself professionally, there will be different expectations in both situations. Prepare yourself before the interview, and be flexible no matter what situation you’re placed in.
4. Tell what you’ve done, not what you’ve been
When introducing yourself to a potential employer, don’t waste their time (or yours) discussing what titles you’ve held or degrees you’ve earned. Instead, focus on what you did during those times. If you were a member of a fraternity, talk about the charitable events you were a part of, and what responsibilities you had during those times. Same goes for previous employment positions. Saying you were a store manager really doesn’t make you stick out from a bunch of other potential employees. Instead, discuss how many people worked under you, what your job entailed, and what goals you met throughout your time in the position. You can definitely discuss awards you’ve earned, but put them into the context of what you did to earn them. Talking about awards won will make you seem like a blowhard; discussing the effort put into earning them allows people to see you as the dedicated worker you are.
5. Be memorable
Like I said, you want to make yourself stick out from the rest of the interviewee pool. Again, don’t waste time talking about your college degrees. Think about it: If degree is a requirement for the position, then having a degree is not a unique qualification. Instead, talk about what you bring to the table: What skills do you have that you believe sets you apart from everyone else? What have you learned throughout your life that will allow you to succeed in this position? Most importantly: What can do you for the company? Why should the company hire you? The first time you meet a potential employer is your first chance to sell yourself. Make sure they know everything they can about you, and that you stick out in their mind at the end of the day (in a good way, of course!).
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