By Melanie Ruberti, ACN Communications Coordinator
By the time you read the first two lines of this story, someone will decide their first impression of you—and if they want to know more.
That’s seven seconds for a potential employer or client to decide if you possess the traits they’re looking for—or if they need to look elsewhere.
A recent study by Princeton University researchers states it only takes some people a tenth of a second to determine if someone is trustworthy.
Obviously, that’s not a lot of time. However, there are some things you can do to ensure those seven seconds leave a lasting, positive impression.
This seems like a given, but you’d be surprised at how many people forget to smile when meeting a potential employer or client for the first time. Chalk it up to nerves, forgetfulness, or inexperience—however, a flash of your pearly whites can go a long way.
While you’re at it, be sure to make eye contact with the other person. The action shows you are confident—even if your insides feel like Jell-O.
It’s also important to maintain eye contact during your interview or meeting. Make sure you look at your interviewer when answering questions and when they are speaking to you. Looking down, out a window or at a wall shows a lack of interest on your part, which will most likely equal a lack of further interest from that employer.
The same is true if your meeting is virtual. Look in the camera! And make sure you’re in a quiet area with no distractions—visual or audible.
(For more tips on virtual interviews, read AAEA Member Claire Weinzierl’s article in the June 2021 issue of the ByLine.)
This is a tricky one, thanks to COVID-19.
Traditionally, an interviewee would extend their right hand and give their interviewer a brief, but firm handshake. Bonus points if you smiled and made eye contact at the same time. These actions make people feel welcomed and shows confidence.
But in a post-pandemic world, talent and etiquette coaches recommend a person wait to see if their potential boss or client makes the first move. If not, either let it slide or give them an elbow bump and explain why. It may be awkward, but also a good way to break the ice.
Do you need to spend a ton of money and buy a suit? No. Do you need to look presentable? Yes.
Wear something you will feel comfortable in and that’s suitable for a work environment. Well-fitting pants and nice button down shirt, top or cardigan are usually okay.
Indeed.com says neutral colors, such as navy, black, gray, and brown are the best colors to wear to an interview. White is appropriate for a shirt or blouse. You can even add a pop of color to introduce your personality, according to Indeed experts.
Recruiters say people should dress professionally during virtual interviews as well.
Grooming and Posture
This should go without saying, but make sure you are well groomed for your meeting. This means take a shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair, clean under your nails, trim your facial hair, etc. If you have bad breath, pop in a Tic-Tac. If you need to freshen up, spritz on some perfume or cologne.
That being said, do not coat yourself from head-to-toe in any fragrance—even if it says “light” or “eau-de-toilette.” Potential bosses and clients do not want to smell you from a mile away. Same for taming breath issues: do not greet a manager or client with a Tic-Tac or wad of gum in your mouth.
Maintain good posture while walking to and from your interview, and when sitting in a chair during your interview. Stand up (or sit up) straight, with your shoulders slightly back and your head held high. According to Forbes magazine, perfect posture makes you look confident and open to the opportunity being presented to you. It also may increase your confidence and help you convey your thoughts clearly and concisely, plus create powerful and meaningful interactions with your future boss, colleagues, and clients.
Last, but definitely not least, be on time (or early) to your scheduled appointment. Program or print out directions to your destination the night before. Get up earlier than normal in case of wardrobe malfunctions or makeup mishaps. Add in extra drive time for potential traffic delays. Arriving early or on time will allow you to become comfortable in your surroundings and shows your reliability. It also displays a sign of respect for your potential employer or client’s time and busy schedule.
While these tips may not land you a job every time, they will help you find the right job at the right time.
Melanie Ruberti is the Communications Coordinator for the Agriculture Communications Network. She is also a Communications Coordinator and Program Coordinator II for Association Services Group, an association management firm based in LaGrange, Georgia. Prior to joining ASG in 2020, Melanie worked as a journalist in both the TV and print industries for more than 20 years.