I’m going to tell you a story, one that I think perfectly illustrates why first impressions are so vital to interview success.
A couple of years ago, I met with a lady who wanted me to write copy for her company website. We arranged to meet for a coffee. When I arrived at the coffee shop, I was happy to see that she sat by the window. As I approached she noticed me immediately.
She stood to greet me, and once she finished scanning my clothing while exhibiting her lazy smile, she eventually met my eye. I initiated a handshake and she reluctantly offered her hand, keeping her right arm closely tucked into her side. I noticed her grip was loose and her wrist was limp.
I excused myself and bought a coffee, quickly returning to the table. We exchanged a few pleasantries before getting down to business. From then on she seemed fine, guarded, but interested.
The meeting ended and went our separate ways, however, I felt disheartened and insulted. The words we exchanged seemed civil enough, but for those first 30 seconds she seemed disinterested, critical of my appearance and had bitterly accepted my hand.
A couple of days later we met again. Though on this day she had gotten out of the right side of the bed. She greeted me with a smile, eagerly shook my hand and maintained eye contact throughout our meeting. My concerns about this lady soon evaporated and we developed, not a close, but an easy going and mutually beneficial relationship.
Luckily, in this instance, I had another opportunity to meet with this individual, which gave room for my impressions to change. But in an interview you have one chance, and one chance only, to get it right.
Not only does this story illustrate what NOT to do in the first 30 seconds of an interview, but how these actions can be interpreted by your interviewer. Meet anyone with a blank expression, a wondering gaze, or a lazy handshake then you will make people feel uncomfortable and in turn, you will look rude and ignorant.
Always greet your interviewer with a smile, a keen handshake and maintain an upbeat tone. Because first impressions do stick, and although they can be changed, in an interview situation the first 30 seconds is truly make or break time.