First and lasting impressions at interview

Recently I have had feedback from 2  separate clients about 2 candidates that didn’t get any further than first stage interview.

This was of course 90% due to their performance in the actual interview situation, but one of the more standout comments fed back, was that on both occasions, both candidates failed to engage with the receptionist or Front of House person.

It’s natural to feel nervous when meeting a new set of people, let alone in an interview scenario, but first impressions really do count.  My own nerves in such situations tend to make me more chatty, as a way of pushing the spotlight away from me briefly, before the meeting/interview/appointment.  Of course, not everyone responds in that way.

It’s really useful to consider that from the time you pull up in the car park, or walk from the bus stop, you are going to be evaluated by someone that works for the organisation that you are hopefully keen to get a job offer from.

You don’t need to have the jokes, the gift of the gab or anything, but maybe just remember the following:

  • A smile
  • A greeting suitable for the time of day
  • No need to offer a handshake unless it’s proffered by the first person you encounter
  • Any small talk will do – the weather of course!  Where would we be without it! How long has the person that first meets you worked there?  It really doesn’t have to be more than that.
  • Accept a glass of water if offered, give you something to do with your hand.

After the interview, thank the front desk person again and infer that you hope to see them again.

Remember, you will be nervous, but making the person that you initially meet feel uncomfortable, if they are attempting to chat, just makes them feel that they would be better of just getting on with something else.

From my days working in corporate companies, the reception and front of house staff were people that I as a HR Professional really got to know well.  I would be calling down and asking if candidates had arrived and after most interviews, the front of house staff would usually offer their opinions whether I wanted them or not!   Or I would make a point of asking how ‘so and so’ behaved while they were waiting.  If I had heard that they were rude, or chatted the whole time on their mobile phone etc. it certainly would have clouded my overall impressions of them.

Just remember, it’s not all only about what happens in the interview room.  First impressions really can have an influence and make a difference in the overall decision making.