According to recent research when meeting someone new a judgment is made in the first few minutes or even seconds. Tricia Prickett, a psychology student of Oregon State University, videotaped a series of job interviews and found that an observer could predict whether or not the interviewee would be offered the job from watching just the first 15 seconds of the tape – the handshake, the “hello” and very little else. We live in a society driven by image. Identity and personality are often defined by how we dress, whether or not we have piercings or tattoos and how we wear our hair; it is these external signals that tell others how we wish to be perceived. In the context of an interview those first few significant moments may be the difference between the career of your dreams and a life of unemployment.
Luckily it is possible to control the factors that lead to a positive initial judgment in an interview setting. Most importantly are the obvious; be clean, be well groomed and smell nice but do not make the classic mistakes of overdoing the aftershave/perfume! Appropriate clothing is a must, dress suitably to the role you are applying for but a failsafe approach is always smart and demure. Body language is equally important; make eye contact, have a good posture and smile. For the all-important handshake get some practice in beforehand, get your friends or family to make sure you are accomplishing that perfect handshake; firm but not hard and anything but limp!
Hand in hand with body language goes self-confidence. Confidence comes naturally to some but not many; fortunately it is not just something you are born with, it can be learnt. When people with speech impediments are learning to overcome them they are sent out and told to talk to as many new people as possible, confronting the very thing that most triggers their impairment. The same therapy is applied to those with phobias – people who are afraid of heights are made to stand at the top of a tall building. Using the same method you can overcome shyness; force yourself to talk to people first, do not just make eye contact but practice maintaining it, stand up straight hold your head high and believe in yourself. According to The British Dental Health Foundation, a smile gives the same level of stimulation as eating 2,000 chocolate bars, it releases endorphins, serotonin and natural pain killers – the physical act triggers a physiological response creating real feelings. In the same way acting like a happy self-assured person will make you feel that way and in turn if you have faith in yourself so too will the person interviewing you.