Do you keep getting job interviews, but never job offers? It could come down to how you’re presenting yourself during the interview, and the most important part of that is your introduction. Luckily, there are a number of simple steps you can take to improve that first impression when introducing yourself in your next interview.
The easiest way to improve any first impression is to be extremely intentional with your body language. Take deep breaths, smile, and project the confidence that will shape the way you’re seen moving forward.
Why The First Impression Is So Important
In most interviews, you’re going to have an hour tops to share with the interviewer:
- Who you are.
- Why you’re qualified.
- Why you’re better than the other candidates (whom you’ve never met).
- Why you’re the best fit for the team.
- Why they should like you.
That’s quite a bit to pack into a conversation with a person you’re meeting for the first time. That’s why it’s vital that you set the tone off right and prime the interviewer to be interested in what you have to say, rather than having to spend the whole time changing the interviewer’s mind. This is why the first impression is so vitally important.
The biggest mistake I see is when people focus only on the “correct answers” to interview questions but skip over the fact that the interviewer is just another person who has their own biases and opinions. It’s vital that we spend time ensuring that we make the best first impression possible to give us the upper hand when convincing the interviewer that we’d be the best candidate for the position we’re applying to.
That’s why it’s so vital to walk into that interview room very intentionally because those first few seconds where you introduce yourself are going to determine how the interviewer sees you, and will impact how you’re seen throughout the rest of the interview.
The First Thirty Seconds
We all know that the first impression is vital. Those first thirty seconds are going to really set the bar for how the interviewer sees you. Now sure, the first thirty seconds isn’t the end all be all of your interaction, but everything that happens from that point on is either conflicting with that first impression or reinforcing it. And we all know that it is way harder to change our opinion of a person than it is to simply reaffirm what we already think about them.
The first 30 seconds of any interaction are arguably the most important in making a great first impression. When it comes to interviewing for a job, that first impression is going to be even more vital, as you’ve got very limited time to show the interviewer what you’re all about.
Most people think the “real interview” starts when the hiring manager says “tell me about yourself.” In reality, though, there is usually a minute or two of small talk before the “real interview” starts, and that’s the window of time we’re really trying to perfect when it comes to making a great first impression. By the time the “real interview” starts, the hiring manager has already started forming their opinion of you. This can either be a positive opinion that will elevate everything you say from that point forward, or it can be an anchor that undercuts you in each and every interview question.
It’s Not About What You Say…
A common misconception is that people only care about what you say, but as the saying goes, “it’s not about what you say, it’s about how you say it.”
In an interview, this is both true and false. When the interviewer is testing your technical skills, there’s usually a right answer and a wrong answer. What you say really does matter. When introducing yourself, the thing that matters most is not so much what you say, but it’s the general vibe you give off. Now sure if you walk in and say “I’m james and I hate puppies” you’re not going to win any friends, but barring any shenanigans like puppy hate, the interviewer is largely going to forget what you said. What they will remember, is the feeling they had when you introduced yourself.
This can be the fact that you showed up five minutes late, or that you wore a suit and tie. But assuming you’ve covered the basics like being on time, nailing the first impression almost always comes down to your body language.
How To Improve Your First Impression
Assuming you’re on time for your interview and wearing something appropriately professional, the easiest and most significant steps you can take to improve your first impression is by deliberately improving your body language, specifically using your body language to come across as being confident, and relaxed.
These aren’t necessarily even two separate things. Most of the time if you’re confident, you’ll be relaxed, and if you’re relaxed you’ll come across as more confident. Obviously, this isn’t a hard rule, but there is frequent overlap. With that being said we’re going to address each of them a little differently.
Most of the time, body language is unconscious, it’s usually a reflection of our mindset and habits, rather than a driver of them. But there are lots of things that we know of that can instantly lead to us feeling and acting calmer, more relaxed, and yes, even more confident.
In the few minutes before your interview, the easiest thing to do is to breathe. But not just constant shallow breathing, you’ll want to take deep, intentional breaths. It should feel like breathing all the way down into your stomach. This is going to increase the oxygen in your blood, decrease your blood pressure and even slow down your heart rate.
Honestly, the internet is full of breathing exercises that are surprisingly transformative, but, staying focused on why you’re here; taking several deep breaths is going to physiologically affect you and how you’ll present yourself.
Personally, I also like to use power poses as well, because I’m a firm believer in “fake it till you make it.” Power posing is basically just making poses that mimic power in the hope that we’ll act more powerful and confident. Still, power poses are a bit more pseudoscience, which in this case is that power poses are hard to measure objective effectiveness and seem only to work so far as the person believes they’re working.
So, if you’re on the fence about power posing, maybe give it a try and see how you feel. It’s certainly not going to hurt.
Confidence is Key
The next thing that will ensure a great first impression is introducing yourself confidently. Little things like fidgeting, touching your hair, and looking away when you talk, these things kill that confident vibe you’re trying to give off.
When you have good posture, talk clearly, and smile, you check off 90% of what being confident really looks like. This is going to be front and center when you introduce yourself but is also something to consider throughout the entire interview.
Key Takeaways (TLDR)
The difference between an awful interview and a spectacular interview can sometimes come down to the first impression you made during those first thirty seconds of your interview. Everything that happens from the first thirty seconds on is either conflicting with that first impression or reinforcing it. Luckily, there are a number of simple steps you can take to improve that first impression when introducing yourself in your next interview.
Tip #1: Focus on how you say things – 99% of the time, the interviewer is going to forget what you said in your introduction, but they will remember how they felt during those first thirty seconds, if only subconsciously
Tip #2: Calm as a cucumber – If you’re anxious, the interviewer will be anxious. If you’re calm and collected, the interviewer will be at ease with the thought of you doing the job. Remember, “act like you’ve been here before.”
Tip #3: Express confidence – The most important thing you can do is be confident in yourself, your skills, and your ability to perform the job you’re applying to. If they get the idea you’re nervous about doing the job, why would they feel any differently?
There is usually a minute or two of small talk before the “actual interview” starts, and that’s the window of time we’re really trying to perfect when it comes to making a great first impression, but as we know, the first question that’s going to come out of the interviewer’s mouth is “tell me about yourself.” By using the tips we just talked about, you’re sure to make the best first impression at your next interview!