How much time do you have to make an impression on your interviewer? According to a Classes and Careers survey of 2000 bosses, one-third claimed they know whether they’ll hire someone within the first 90 seconds of an interview. Situations like these are all about making a great first impression. We’ve dished out advice on the stories you should tell and the questions you should ask during your job interview, but in those first 90 seconds, making an impression is going to be more about how you present yourself than what you say. It’s important to be aware that you’re being assessed as soon as you walk in the door, beginning with…
Your facial expression
You thought we’d say “handshake,” didn’t you? We’ll get there, but note that before your interviewer reaches to shake your hand, they’ll see the expression on your face. 38% of surveyed bosses said that not smiling is a common interview mistake. It may convey that you’re nervous or unfriendly. Smile when it’s appropriate and be genuine; don’t plaster it on.
The most commonly reported interview mistake (67%) was failure to make eye contact. Eye contact is especially important in the first 90 seconds because it’s your first “connection” with the interviewer. It should be natural. Don’t look like you’re trying to stare your interviewer down or delve into the depths of their soul. And remember, it’s called “eye” contact for a reason; avoid staring at the interviewer’s lips or forehead. In fact, avoid staring at all.
Over a quarter of respondents reported that weak handshakes are an interview ‘No.’ In a study by Dr. Greg Stewart from the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, participants with the best handshake scores were considered the most hireable by interviewers. Good handshakes demonstrate that a candidate is assured and personable: have a firm (not “dead fish” limp or “iron death”) grip, maintain eye contact, and shake deliberately.
When you sit down
Slouching makes you appear to lack confidence and makes you physically smaller, leaning back makes you seem lazy and disinterested, and sitting up like you have a board attached to your back makes you seem like a robot. Your posture should be somewhere in the middle: straight but not stiff, natural but attentive. In addition, crossing your arms over your chest as soon as you sit down gives off the impression that you’re closed off, defensive, and close-minded. Instead, keep your arms and hands relaxed either on the table or in your lap.
Good nonverbal communication in those first 90 seconds can mean the difference between an interviewer writing you off before you even talk about your qualifications and leaning in with interest to learn more about you. This seems like a lot to keep in check, but practice makes confidence, so rehearse these techniques with a friend before you interview. That way, you’ll be ready when your interviewer starts the timer.