First impressions count

Your first point of contact with a potential future employer is often your resume. The next is when you meet face-to-face, and that window to impress is very narrow. Science tells us it can take as little as three to seven seconds for someone to make up their mind about you.

Here are four critical behaviours to perfect so you can start your interview on the right foot.


First and foremost – arrive at the right time. You should ideally arrive five to ten minutes before your scheduled interview time. However, it’s not just about punctuality. We all have different stress thresholds and need different amounts of time to settle down and feel calm.

Give yourself enough time to relax and review your interview tips before you go in. Arriving in a rush can cause additional stress, which is the last thing you need. If you need half an hour to relax, simply arrive early and walk around the block, or sit in a nearby cafe.

Personal appearance

Although we live in a society that allows us to dress as we like, the way we fit into subgroups of society is often related to our appearance. For instance, staff at a law firm dress significantly differently to the staff at a travel agency – one is more formal, and one more casual.

It’s generally not hard to determine a company’s organisational norms and culture, particularly when they have a website or a high public profile. When researching the job market, it helps to choose an organisation that fits with your particular style or preference, and then reflect that in your dress code at the interview.  If you’re unsure, it’s best to err on the side of caution and dress more formally.


A good handshake is a much-discussed thing. First is the grip. A good handshake should be firm, but not too firm. A firm handshake exudes trust and reliability, but a crushing handshake could be perceived as domineering. Similarly, a loose, soft-grip handshake, known as the ‘dead fish’, could be interpreted as a sign of low confidence and trigger a lack of trust. So, assess the person’s strength and adjust your grip accordingly.

Second is the eye contact. Always smile and look straight into a person’s eyes before you extend your offer for a handshake. This builds trust and may also act as a ‘permission-seeking’ behaviour.

Third is the distance and motion of the handshake. The distance between two people should be enough to allow for extending the hand and slightly leaning forward when shaking hands. Rule of thumb is to stand about a metre apart. Shake hands in an up-down motion and avoid creativity. The up-down motion is universally understood, so stick with it, and keep your other hand next to your body.

Finally, a good handshake should last two to five seconds. A shorter one may be interpreted as lack of interest and a longer one is awkward and often inappropriate.

Eye contact

Paul Ekman, the father of micro-expressions, has done extensive research on facial expressions. He has several tips about eye contact that can be useful in interviews.

Be relaxed during the interview, but try not to let your eyes wander. Consistent eye contact can be interpreted as a person being transparent in their responses. If it’s a panel situation, answer each panel member’s question by focusing on them, with occasional eye contact with other members. Having said that, certainly avoid long gazes with no blinks. That’s just spooky and rude!

Remember, practice makes perfect. Like an actor who needs to rehearse before a performance, practice the art of effective communication – but unlike the actor, be yourself!

Do your homework

Prior to your interview, research the company thoroughly. The business’s website, annual reports and press releases are ideal places to start however, don’t forget to search for the company in the news, and check out its social media profiles too. A company’s LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts can provide valuable insights into current clients and projects, company values and culture.

Social media can also be harnessed to learn more about your interviewer. Do they have any recently published papers or blogs? If so, read them. Do you have any mutual contacts? What projects is the interviewer currently working on? The more you know about the company, the more relaxed you’ll feel in your interview – just don’t be tempted to send your interviewer a Facebook friend or LinkedIn connection request!

Make an even better first impression on your prospective employer by getting your employment history independently verified by CVCheck. It’s an easy and fast way to demonstrate your honesty and credentials.

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