Advice Centre

Making the Right Impression


Benchmark Career Advice, advice-centre

If there is one place where first impressions really do count, it's in an interview situation. In a startling number of cases, a decision is made the very second a candidate enters the room.

Even if the candidate the best credentials for the job, it can be very difficult for an employer to overcome that crucial first impression, which is generally made before the candidate have taken a seat. 

The top five interview non-starters are:

  1. Turning up late 
  2. Being inappropriately presented 
  3. Arriving flustered and disorganised
  4. Failing to prepare 
  5. Offering a weak handshake 

1. Time is Money - Don't be late! 

Gridlock traffic, lack of public transport, road-works, nowhere to park... We have all been there, no matter how early you leave the house everything that can delay your journey seems to fall right into your path. But; whilst we can all associate with these annoyances, it doesn't make it any less annoying for the employer, especially when they have a tight schedule for interviews. 

What should you do if you are unavoidably held up?

The best thing to do is to ring ahead as soon as it looks like there is going to be any kind of delay. This will make the employer feel like you value their time and will give them chance to reorder their meetings if necessary.

On arrival, a simple, genuine apology will suffice. Don't go into a lengthy description of your journey from hell as it will only result in you appearing flustered and ultimately waste even more of your interviewer's time

TOP TIP: Do a dummy run on a couple of days before your interview to work out how long the journey will take, then add on an extra 30 minutes, to be on the safe side! 

2. Dress to impress! 

Arriving at an interview in your best clubbing outfit is unlikely to go down well when everyone else is suited and booted. Likewise, sporting your Sunday best will look ridiculous when the entire workforce is in jeans and trainers. 

These examples are surprisingly common, and unfortunately, for many employers they don't simply go down as just a fashion faux pas. The reality is, being wrongly, presented for your interview screams out that you haven't done your research on the company and ultimately, that you don't fit in with the rest of the work force. Other instant turn offs for potential employers include: 
  • Overpowering perfume 
  • Nicotine smell on breath and clothing 
  • 'Less than fresh' body odour
Remember, an employer is looking for someone who can easily be integrated into the office environment, and possibly even introduced to clients. Sticking out like a sore thumb and bringing your own unique aroma isn't likely to welcome you into the fold. Therefore, ensuring that you look (and smell) good for your interview is the first way to ensure that you are one step ahead of the other candidates.

How do you get the dress code right? 

Do your research and find out what employees in the company generally wear to work. You should get an idea from looking on their website, but if in doubt you could always take a trip pas the office at lunchtime and see what the people coming in and out are wearing 

TOP TIP: Dressing like you already hold the positon will help your employer envisage you as part of the team. 

A general rule of thumb is to look professional, even if the dress code is casual. Don't have too much bare skin on show and make sure that everything is clean, polished and neatly pressed. Our essential guide on what to wear to suit particular jobs will ensure that you are dressed to impress. 

3. Make an Impact - For all the Right Reasons 

Whilst it may be a charming quality in rom-coms, in reality arriving for an interview laden with bags and tripping over your own feet as you enter the room just looks sloppy and unprofessional. The following Golden Rules will ensure that you appear in control (even if you don't feel it!):
  • Take just one smart bag (no carrier bags)
  • Bring your own pad and pen 
  • Turn your phone on silent and keep it in your bag
  • Pick up any shopping after the interview, you want to look like you are in demand, not killing time wandering around the shops
  • Finish and dispose of any food or drink (including chewing gum) before you arrive 

4. Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail 

This interview could be your one and only chance to land your dream job, therefore, you need to make sure that you are in the best position possible to sell yourself. Prior to the interview, do your groundwork, research the company and any practicalities for the day, including: 
  • The exact location, how will you get there, where will you park? 
  • Memorise the name of the interviewer 
  • Research the company's clients and any significant company news, new business wins etc.
  • Don't restrict your research to corporate info on the company website, check out their twitter and Linkedin feeds to gain a more realistic insights of the people within company, including their up to the minute news 
  • Get an idea of the dress code

5. Ditch the Wet Fish! 

As old-fashioned as it sounds, candidates really are judged on the strength of their handshake, a weak handshake is seen as exactly that! At the other end of the scale, there's no need to go down the bone crusher approach, a firm affirmative shake is enough to show that you mean business.