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Job interview tips: How to impress in 7 seconds

The expert's tips on how to impress in 7 seconds. Top right: Total Image Group CEO Pamela Jabbour; Bottom right: Executive Coach and Director of Executive Education and Visiting Professor of Business and Technology at Loyola Law School Hamilton Chan. (Source: Getty, Supplied)

It’s often said that it takes only seven seconds for someone to form an impression of you.

Whether or not you believe that, how you come across in that initial meeting with someone counts for a whole lot – and in situations like job interviews that could be as short as a quarter of an hour, every minute counts.

Luckily, there are ways to give yourself the best shot: executive coaching and design experts revealed to Yahoo Finance the tricks of the trade to make sure you get off on the right foot.

It’s about how you hold yourself

1. Exude warmth and confidence

Get the basics right first: there’s nothing worse than talking to someone that seems closed in on themselves. Executive coach and US-based Loyola Law School visiting professor Hamilton Chan said exuding warmth will communicate that you are a friendly person.

“Warmth will come across from a variety of body cues, including a great smile, an enthusiastic handshake, open body posture (e.g., facing the person directly) and going out of your way to greet someone,” he told Yahoo Finance.

Don’t be afraid to take that extra step – literally. “That could potentially mean standing up to shake hands if you’re already seated or going around a coffee table to come forward and greet the person you are meeting.”

On top of that, hold yourself with confidence – it’s something both humans and animals respond to, he pointed out.

“If you maintain good posture, hold eye contact and speak at a comfortable volume, others will be much more likely to listen to you and to respect you,” he said.

“Offer your name and ask theirs. Take the initiative in the conversation and do not be afraid to lead the discussion.”

2. Project energy

Don’t let your initial warmth and confidence peter out: keep it up throughout the interview, Chan advised, adding that if energy could be measured on a scale of 1 to 10, you should be at a 7 or 8 in most social situations.

“Positive energetic people bring up the energy of others. We seek the company of people who are excited about what they do and who have the ability to get us excited about things,” he told Yahoo Finance.

And it all begins with your voice: speak at a volume where it’ll be easy to be heard and the interviewer doesn’t have to strain to hear you.

“Modulate your voice and rhythm of speech so that listening to you is pleasant and entertaining. Master storytellers use vocal inflection to keep listeners enraptured.”

3. Add humour and be observant

Short on conversation openers? You can’t go wrong with a remark that’s both funny, perceptive, or both, according to Chan.

As you walk over to meet someone, look out for little details you can hone in on, like a misspelt name on their coffee cup.

“Obviously, you want to pick something that is light-hearted and inoffensive,” Chan said. “You can also comment on something you perceive about the meeting environment – for example, ‘the conference room has a gorgeous view’.”

What you don’t want is for things to get awkward, so if you’re worried, pre-plan your opening line, even if it’s something as basic as introducing yourself and saying “it’s nice to meet you”.

“Even better if your opening phrase is something uplifting and personal to the situation, like, ‘Hi, it’s great to meet you! Wow – that blended coffee looks awesome. I think I’ll get one.’”

But it’s also about how you look

For uniform designer and manufacturer Total Image Group CEO Pamela Jabbour, it’s all about the threads.

“It amazes me the amount of new interview candidates that show up inappropriately dressed,” Jabbour told Yahoo Finance.

“There is a creative and strategic element to how you are perceived at work, and this comes into play even more so in a job interview.”

Think of the job interview like an audition – it’s important to dress the part.

3. Do your research

You’ve heard this one before: before the job interview, be sure to do your due diligence and make sure you familiarise yourself with the company or the brand and the industry it operates in.

But Jabbour said it’s also worth your time researching the culture (is it corporate or casual?), who their stakeholders are, their audience, and even the tone of their marketing. “You will be surprised how much this will influence how you dress.”

4. Dress to your shape – but also to feel good

Understand your body shape and age, advised the uniform company CEO. “Dressing appropriately shows you are in total control of who you are and what you do.”

Backing Chan’s advice on confidence, Jabbour added that you should dress how you would like to be perceived. “You’ll be surprised at your level of confidence when you dress and feel the part.”

And it goes without saying that your outfit should always be clean and never over-worn: old, wrinkled clothing makes you look messy and unprofessional.

5. Less is more

According to Jabbour, jewellery should be kept to a minimum – a watch, a wedding ring, and not too much else.

If you’re a smoker, pop a breath mint (though it should be gone by the time you go into the interview); men should either be clean shaven or have their beard professionally trimmed beforehand. Nails should be trimmed and clean, she added.

6. What not to wear

Of course, you’ll have to use your discretion on this according to the company and its culture – but candidates are advised against jeans and t-shirts. Instead, stick with a classic blouse or shirt paired with chinos or business pants/skirt.

“Avoid bright, shiny or bold patterns,” Jabbour said. “Make sure if you are interviewing for a corporate company, you are dressed corporate; a classic suit will go a long way.”

Designer’s quick rules of thumb

Still not sure how to dress? To play it safe, here are Jabbour’s golden rules to stick by:

  • When in doubt, dress conservatively;

  • It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed; and

  • If you want to be sure, ask the interviewer what the company dress code is.

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