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You never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is especially true at job interviews. Studies show that your interviewer, before they even ask you a question, will use non-verbal cues to form judgements about you. There’s not much time – it’s imperative to put your best foot forward right from the start. Here are five easy ways to make a favorable first impression without speaking a word.

Handshake

Let’s start with the handshake, since we all do.

There’s no easier way to project confidence and professionalism than with a proper handshake. It’s not surprising that social psychologists found that handshakes can influence the outcome of a job interview.

Yet despite the well-known benefits, some people flub the handshake. It’s surprising how many times I’ve interviewed candidates who come to their interview with a power resume, a power suit, and an anemic grip. Some people call it the “dead fish” but I call it the “wet noodle”. At best it’s unconvincing. At worst it’s a sign of insecurity.

This article from Forbes shows how to make your handshake count. It offers great advice from how to start (“be the first to extend your hand”) to how to finish (“make sure that when you break away, you do not look down. It’s a submissive signal.”)

Eye Contact

Eye contact during your introduction is crucial, so make sure that you lock eyes with your interviewer when you meet and while shaking hands.

But don’t stop there.

It’s important to sustain eye contact throughout the course of the interview.

According to body language expert Susan Constantine, “as a society, we’re taught to distrust someone who looks away while answering a question.” To be blunt, people may think you’re scatterbrained if your eyes dart all over the place and they might take you for timid if you stare at your shoes. This can be particularly concerning if you’re interviewing for a client-facing role.

If sustained eye contact doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t fret!  Practice in front of a mirror and in everyday low-pressure interactions: with a cashier, a colleague, the parking attendant or the pizza delivery person. Practice looking people straight in the eye while delivering a message and soon it will become second nature.

Posture

Schlumpty Dumpty sat on a wall.

Schlumpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the recruiters in all of the land

Couldn’t save Schlumpty from getting canned.

 

As my grandmother used to say to me, ”Stand up straight. You look like a schlump!”

You know what happens when you slouch? Your shoulders drop, forcing your head and your gaze downward (remember the importance of eye contact).

When you stand with proper posture your chest expands outward and your chin tilts up – a sign of confidence and dominance. Look at historical paintings and statues for examples of leaders in heroic poses. They always have rounded shoulders, straight backs, chins and eyes held high.

Don’t be a Slumpty Dumpty at your interview…or you might be heading for a fall.

Dress

According to the theory of enclothed cognition, when you wear a uniform you take on the characteristics of that uniform. A person in a prison guard uniform becomes more authoritative, while a person in a prisoner’s uniform becomes more subservient. Wearing a white coat increases attentiveness. Wearing a painter’s coat does not.

In other words: clothes matter. They not only affect how others perceive you, but they affect your own behavior and performance. Proper dress is such an important topic that I’m going to devote two more blog posts to it – one for women and one for men.

For now I’ll just say that everyone should own a quality interview suit. This is your superhero outfit – when you put it on you’ll look like a million bucks and feel like you can leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s the instant boost of confidence you need for your interview.

Grooming

Proper grooming is essential to make a great first impression. Not only does it make us look polished and feel better, but it sends a professional signal. If you’re someone who takes pride in your corporate image, then it stands to reason you’ll be looking out for the company’s corporate image as well.

Here are the basics:

Make sure you’re sporting clean and trim fingernails so your interviewer doesn’t feel like they’re shaking hands with Edward Scissorhands.

Hair should be neat or styled and swept away from the face so you can make good eye contact.

You want your interviewer to be focus on your ideas, not crumpled clothes, don’t forget to get your outfit cleaned and pressed before the big interview.

Unpleasant breath can be a real distraction, so whatever you do, don’t eat a Bloomin’ Onion  before your interview (not that you’d want to eat one anyway, have you seen the calorie count for that thing?!). Sorry not sorry, Outback.

To Sum It Up

First impressions can make or break your job interview. Set yourself up for success by sending the right non-verbal cues and making a stellar impression on your interviewer. Your resume, communication, and professional skills will take it from there.