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First impressions

First impressions

First impressions matter whether they be online or in person. Consider conducting a web search on yourself to see what employers could access when pre-screening candidates. Some employers are also registering themselves in social networking groups to collect information on potential candidates. Thoroughly check all sites, blogs, where you are listed to ensure that the information contained is professional.

Succeeding in the interview can depend on your professional appearance and the interviewer’s first impression of you. If the first impression is not positive, it will be difficult to change the interviewer’s mind during the rest of the interview. Research indicates that, on average, an interviewer decides to hire in just 5 1/2 minutes.

If you’re able, arrive early dressed in appropriate attire for the type of organization interviewing you. It is best to avoid wearing strong scents because many people have environmental allergies. Unless you are expecting an urgent call, set your cell phone to vibrate or turn it off.

In North America, a common greeting at the beginning of an interview is to shake hands. When you shake hands, make eye contact and smile. Handshakes should be firm but not aggressive; try to match the grip of the interviewer. However, there are many reasons why people may choose not to shake hands: cultural, religious, personal space, fear of spreading illness, etc. If someone chooses not to shake your hand, do not take offense. If someone extends their hand but you prefer an alternative greeting, consider how to best react in a polite manner that works for you. A common way is to put your right hand to your chest, focus on eye contact, smile, and say “I’m sorry, I don’t shake hands, but it’s a pleasure to meet you”, or alternatively, “I’m sorry, I’ve been sick, and I don’t want it to spread”. Rehearse what feels comfortable for you. The goal is to greet each person with respect and professionalism.

Don’t worry about being a little nervous during the interview; being nervous is normal and expected. Remember, the interviewer wants to hire you if you have the right qualifications and interest in the position. Many interviewers will begin the interview with some “small talk” to help you relax. This may seem irrelevant to the position, but you are still being evaluated; be sure to demonstrate a positive attitude.

University of Waterloo

Centre for Career Development