No matter which side of the table you’re on, we’ve all heard how much first impressions in an interview setting count. We’ve even seen all the statistics ranging from 15 seconds to a blink of the eye where an employer makes their first judgment of a job candidate on whether or not they’ll hire them.
For an applicant, sometimes it’s a limp handshake from an interviewer or not being greeted by anyone when they show up for an interview that can start to turn them off immediately from the position.
Sometimes these bad first impressions can weigh on your subconscious, unknowingly, throughout the interview, and sometimes the impression is staring you in the face, weighing you down in disgrace.
But, first impressions are everything right? You’re doomed if the interview gets off to a bad start. You spilled coffee, arrived late, said the wrong candidate name, fumbled for minutes trying to find a pen, and there’s that awkward moment that all hope is gone.
Wish you could start your interview over? Do it. While you can’t pretend the first part of the interview never happened, make a second impression that will overshadow the first.
Keep your composure.
No matter what happens in an interview, keep it together. Don’t cry, don’t ramble, don’t fuss, don’t complain. If you have to apologize for something, do it with respect, grace, and tact.
Poise goes a long way in an interview and shows you can operate under pressure with ease. It can also surprise the other person as you react to the situation and shift focus from the first impression to how you handle the situation.
Don’t be afraid to take control of the interview and recognize that you might have gotten off on the wrong foot. Sometimes acknowledging the white elephant in the room can allow you both to let it go and start again or lift the tension.
Redirect by focusing the interview on what you’re there to talk about: fit for the position at hand. By taking control, you’re again shifting the direction of the meeting and showing that you have the ability to change an outcome or focus on the real goal at hand.
If something has put you off, sometimes the best thing to do is to smile. If you’re having trouble, try finding something to smile about. Give yourself a positive affirmation to focus on.
You’ll be amazed at how that smile can change your entire demeanor and open you back up to being receptive in the interview. And, smiles are often contagious, so you might just get the person across the table smiling too!
Laughter is the best medicine.
If all else fails and you feel like you’re at a point of no return, good humor can sometimes save a situation and make for a good story. If you’ve got nothing left to lose, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, make light of the situation, and move forward. It’s a good reminder that we all have bad days.
While first impressions are extremely important, its only the end of the world if you make it so. You always have the power to change things. So, whether you’re the candidate or the interviewer, never let them see you sweat, and never lose your cool. There is life after a bad first impression.
Have you ever gotten off to a bad start in an interview? Were you able to turn it around?
Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Interviewing.com. Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog, RestlessPillow.com, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.