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How To Ace Any Interview (Part 1) – The First Impression

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Preparing for an interview is a crucial step towards landing your dream job. It requires careful planning, self-reflection, and strategic thinking. Although unlocking the secret recipe of a successful interview is definitely not rocket science, tips and strategies provided by career coaches with years of experience in the recruitment process can significantly enhance your chances of excelling in the interview and landing your dream job. In this blog, we will provide you with career coaching tips on how to effectively prepare for any interview. Let’s dive in and unlock the secrets to interview success!

How To Make the Perfect First Impressions At Job Interviews

Job interviews challenge your mastery of etiquette in a high-stakes situation. Fortunately the rules aren’t complex. We are given 7 seconds for a first impression, however scientists believe that traits such as likeability, trustworthiness and attractiveness are assessed in as little as 1/10th of a second. While we can’t change the shape of our faces, we can use psychology to gain an advantage in job interviews. Let’s explore the key etiquettes that will set you on the path to interview success.

Making a Professional First Impression

When it comes to job interviews, projecting a polished and professional image is essential. Here are key tips to ensure you make a lasting impression:

Dress appropriately. Select attire that is clean, well-pressed, and fits you well. While corporate dress codes are usually standard, research the company culture to gauge whether a more trendy or casual approach is suitable. Aim to dress in a manner that aligns with the style of your interviewer.

Prioritise grooming. Pay attention to details such as neatly styled hair and short, clean nails. Maintain fresh breath and ensure your teeth are clean. Avoid consuming food, coffee, or cigarettes immediately before the interview. If dental concerns exist, consider visiting a dentist beforehand to present your best self.

Arrive punctually. Aim to arrive 5-10 minutes early, as it demonstrates respect for the interviewer’s time. Plan your travel route in advance and consider visiting the location beforehand to familiarise yourself. However, arriving excessively early may cause unnecessary anxiety for the interviewer. It’s crucial to allow extra time after the interview in case the conversation flows beyond the scheduled time.

Be prepared. Turn off your phone and organise your paperwork in a neat portfolio. Avoid using smartphones or tablets during the interview, as they can be perceived as distractions. Take a moment for a final check in the bathroom mirror to ensure you appear composed and confident.

Your Grand Entrance

In the world of job interviews, your entrance sets the tone for the entire interaction. Showcasing impeccable etiquette from the moment you step into the room can greatly influence the interviewer’s perception of you.

Be mindful of body language. Chin up, head high, shoulders back and don’t slouch when you’re sitting. Try to keep an “open posture”, with your arms by your sides. Don’t cross your arms and sit where you can comfortably face everyone.

Shake hands well. Not too weak (the dreaded “limp fish”), not too strong (the macho “bone-crusher”), it must be just right. The recipe is firm, dry and warm with about 2-3 seconds of contact. Make eye contact, smile and use the person’s name. Repeat for everyone in the room.

Smile. If your cheeks aren’t hurting in the first 5 minutes you’re not smiling enough.

Greet everyone. Use the same warmth and vigour, from the car park attendant, to the receptionist, to the CEO. It’s great practice and creating a good impression with everyone you meet is simply good sense. People talk.

Learn names. Memorise the names of people you’re meeting. With difficult names, find the correct pronunciation and practice. They’ll love that you made the effort. Repeat people’s names when answering questions and use association techniques (e.g. “blue shirt Mark”).

The Conversation

Once you’ve made a stellar entrance, it’s time to engage in a meaningful conversation with your interviewer. This stage is where your communication skills, articulation, and ability to connect truly shine.

Eye contact. Strong eye contact is a sign of intelligence, confidence and respect. Like the perfect handshake, it’s the Goldilocks principle again; not too little, and definitely not too much! Holding someone’s gaze too long makes you look weird.

Read our post for the best 10 questions to ask here.

Listen. Show genuine interest, through eye contact, nodding your head and using positive responses such as “I understand”. You really care about what they’re saying. Being a great listener shows sincerity and quickly builds rapport.

Talk clearly and don’t interrupt. Avoid slang (industry jargon is OK), use appropriate grammar and avoid interrupting at all costs. It is good practice to speak a little more slowly than usual and take pauses before answering to give yourself the best possible response. Two minutes is about the right amount of time when responding to a question.

BONUS: How to Sound Confident

Sounding confident is key to leaving a lasting impact on your interviewer. It’s not just about what you say, but also how you say it.Here are 8 tips that can help you exude confidence and make a lasting impression during your job interview:


A 5-second pause may feel like a long time in an interview, but an interviewer will usually appreciate it. Pausing momentarily before answering a question buys you time to gather your thoughts and can give the interviewers the impression that you’re thoughtful and consider your answers before blurting out the first thing that comes into your head. It also makes you less likely to squeak out a response or open with a high pitch.


Rehearse your answers as part of your interview preparation. This is interview training 101, but it can’t be overstated how valuable it is to do this. If you’ve practised, the answers will be ready on the tip of your tongue, and you will sound more confident and believable. Remember – You cannot over prepare for an interview!

No-No Words

Umm, uhh, you know, like. Monitor yourself daily for these words and try to eliminate or at least reduce them. These filler phrases make you sound unsure and undermine your efforts to come across as confident.

Interested Tone

What is an interested tone? It’s one that varies according to what you are saying and is not flat and monotone. Your tone rises at peak points and lowers at serious points. Beware of raising your tone at the end of sentences (unless they are questions) as it will make you sound as though you are seeking validation or are afraid of being cut off. Avoid this by lowering your tone slightly at the end of your sentence.

Volume Control

Interviewers want to be able to hear you clearly, but like the rest of us, they don’t want to be yelled at. They also don’t want to be straining to hear you. Practice with a friend sitting across the table, and then across the room from you so you can get a sense of what volume works.


Pay close attention to how you emphasise your words. Emphasising a word draws the listeners attention to that word and which word you emphasise can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

Watch Yourself

Our body language is largely unconscious, which is why it gives so much away about us. Body language can be trained (your favourite actors and actresses are masters). Try sitting in front of a mirror, skype or camera (recording yourself) to become aware of your body language. Watching yourself can be confronting, but it will alert you to any repetitive movements, fidgeting, slouching or other non-verbal cues that detract from confidence. My favourite book to learn more about body language is “Body Language” by Alan & Barbara Pease. You can’t fake good body language the first time; this takes practice until it becomes a habit.


Obvious, yes. Critical, yes. Just like any wind instrument, your voice requires air to work. Apart from the obvious implications, not enough or inconsistent breath will interrupt the cadence of your speech, elevate the pitch and drastically reduce any appearance of confidence. A simple visualisation is to imagine your heart travelling into your belly as you inhale, and your heart floating up into your chest as you exhale. This will ensure you are breathing deeply.

Non-verbal communication is generally unconscious, which is why we believe it more than the words spoken. If you want to nail interviews, commit time to getting your non-verbals right. Play around with your voice, your pitch, tone, cadence and articulation at home, so you’re comfortable with your range and you know how to use your voice. Practise your breath work and body language tips as often as possible. Good non-verbal communication skills will pay off in spades in an interview and make you a powerful and convincing communicator.

Your Graceful Exit

End the interview well with a firm handshake. Look them in the eyes and tell them you want the job. Ask them what the next steps are. The most enthusiastic person tends to get the job much more often than someone highly skilled but apathetic. Motivation and attitude are high on any employer’s wish list. Always follow up with a thank-you email and LinkedIn invitations.

Phone Interview Preparation

We live in busy times. Often, when applying for a role, you may be invited to an initial telephone interview by a recruiter for a pre-screen, or directly with the hiring managers themselves. The world has shrunk, and sometimes an initial phone interview is the only way to get the hiring process rolling. Interviewing on the phone is a completely different experience than a proper face-to-face, with its own pitfalls and dangers. When preparing for a phone job interview, the following four tips will increase your chances of success:

Prepare for Glitches

When it comes to interviews, technological hiccups can sometimes occur. Ensure you have the necessary contact information of your recruiter and interviewers, including mobile numbers and email addresses, as a contingency plan in case any issues arise. Request that the recruiter shares your contact details with the hiring managers as well, allowing for effective communication in case of any unforeseen circumstances. By preparing for potential disruptions, you can navigate interview glitches with ease and professionalism.

Choose the Ideal Location

Selecting a suitable interview location is crucial for maintaining a focused and distraction-free environment. Avoid conducting interviews while driving, at noisy venues, or in places where interruptions are likely. Opt for a quiet and private space, ensuring you have a fully charged mobile phone and access to a backup landline and computer if needed. Prioritise creating an atmosphere conducive to clear and uninterrupted communication.

Project Confidence Through Your Phone Voice

During phone interviews, non-verbal cues become less apparent, placing greater emphasis on the tone and clarity of your voice. Speak audibly and distinctly, using a slightly exaggerated voice to compensate for the absence of visual communication. Remember to adapt your voice to match the style and pace of your interviewer, utilising mirroring techniques to establish rapport. By demonstrating strong vocal presence, you convey confidence and engage effectively in phone conversations.

Embrace the Power of Silence

Utilise the technique of a well-timed pause, known as a “pregnant pause,” after making a compelling statement. Allow the silence to linger, letting your words resonate with the interviewer. Resist the urge to fill the void with unnecessary filler words or sounds. Umm-ing and uh-ing to fill a void is more a distraction and demonstrates poor verbal communication skills. By employing strategic silences, you exhibit control, confidence, and give the interviewer an opportunity to process your statement.

Interviews don’t necessarily have to be a one way stream of questions. Did you know that if done correctly, you can utilise interviews to ask your own questions to the interviewer(s) to clear any questions whatsoever you may have about the company? It doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

Read along How To Ace Any Interview (Part 2) – Best Questions To Ask Interviewers to understand how you as an interviewee can ask thoughtful questions to the interviewer.

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