Interviewing - Getting That Job

by Jane Tredgett

Making a positive first impression

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Most of us are familiar with this expression and nowhere is this more important than at interviews. You will be being assessed – possibly as soon as you set foot on the premises. In turn, you will be assessing the interviewer and the organisation.

It is essential that you make those first few minutes count.


It has been said that the average interviewer makes up their mind in the first four minutes. They spend the rest of the interview looking for evidence to support the decision they have already made.

Good interviewers should try to base their decision on factual evidence presented rather than on ‘gut instinct’. However, we are all human and there will be times when they just do or do not take a shine to a candidate.

Here are some things that help make a positive first impression:

  • Be punctual
  • Be smartly and appropriately dressed
  • If you are going to be late, ring and apologise in advance, explaining clearly what has caused the problem
  • Smile
  • Make eye contact – hold the person’s gaze, but don’t stare
  • Shake hands warmly (avoid the bone crush or limp lettuce handshakes!). Be aware, though, of cultural or religious issues around handshakes. If for any reason you prefer not to shake hands, you need to decide how you are going to handle this, as it is accepted business practise in many organisations
  • Be careful how you pronounce the interviewer’s name; if you are unsure, ask for clarification on how it should be pronounced
  • Use social pleasantries to build rapport. See Rapport

Interview introduction

Those first few minutes normally follow a fairly standard format. The first thing an interviewer should do is to try and put you at your ease. They may do this by offering you coffee or refreshments. You may find it best to decline politely. It is very difficult to drink and talk, so your coffee goes cold and you end up feeling embarrassed that you have rudely left the cup full...

The interviewer should explain the interview process and may give additional information about the job. Listen carefully at this stage. Show that you are paying attention by nodding and smiling. Don’t be afraid to write anything down that triggers a question for you to ask later. It’s not etiquette for you to start asking your questions at this stage.

If the sun is in your eyes or the chair is broken, be confident enough to ask if you can adjust the blind or change seats for the spare one in the corner. It is a bit mean, but some interviewers do plan these things deliberately to see how you will react.