Hello folks, and welcome to this weeks blog.  Over a 15 year period I’ve interviewed in excess of 3000 candidates from a wealth of different sectors, from junior to senior level, factory worker to Sales Director.  IT analyst to Head Chef, all different kinds of individuals with different styles and attitudes.

For this week’s blog I’d like to give you some top tips on creating a great first impression with your interviewer and setting yourself up as one of the top candidates in the running to land that all important job.  It’s a very difficult market at the moment.  You’ve got senior managers with 20 years experience struggling to get back to work after being made redundant.  Really experienced people who are not able to get back on the work ladder, but not quite sure why, or don’t know what they are doing wrong with their job applications.  There are also record numbers of people in the UK unemployed with not as many jobs available as there once was.

If you look at the Newcastle Evening Chronicle which once had over 2000 jobs a week available, I saw a copy last week and there was only 360 jobs in that edition.  So candidates you are going to have to get smart and make you and your application stand out from the crowd.

Here are some tips to get you started, (there will be more to follow weekly in future blogs):

1. Following on from last week’s blog, Is your CV up to scratch?  If it’s not, then it will go in the ‘No’ pile before you know it and you will receive a ‘Thanks but no thanks’ letter.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a professional looking CV.  As I said above, some people don’t know why they are being rejected all the time.  A poor CV is the first reason you will not be offered an interview, (see my earlier blog on how to write a professional CV).  Make sure that you know your CV back to front, there is nothing more embarrassing than being asked a question about your own CV, and being stuck for an answer.  You must know every inch of your CV and be prepared for any question relating to it.

2. Research the company – Prior to your interview do as much research as you can.  Google the company, make notes on their product, service, location, structure, anything you can find.  Go over it again and again so that when you attend the interview, you know all about the company, and you are able to present back to your interviewer, exactly what you know.  Your interviewer will be more than impressed if you have done your homework and you know all about the company.  When I interview a candidate via the telephone, I ask them to prepare exactly what they know about the company and the role they are applying for, prior to the actual face to face interview.  If they turn up on the day and don’t know a thing, I know they have not made the effort to do the research.  On the other hand, If a candidate arrives and he/she has done the research and is able to tell me all about the company and the role, I know they are serious about their application and it is a tick in the box, creating a positive feeling towards the candidate’s application.

3. OK so great news, you’ve been offered an interview! What next?  Dress to Impress!  Have you ever watched Dragon’s Den when someone turns up in a pair of jeans and Peter Jones tears strips off them?  It’s the same for an interview, any interview!  If you are signing up with a recruitment company, they will interview you as professionally as anyone else, (they have to due to legislation and for their own credibility in the industry).  So wear a suit!  Make sure you look and feel great.  I’ve had really good sounding candidates on the telephone, turn up in shell suits, jeans or trainers, and create a poor first impression because they haven’t made an effort to look well presented. 

4 Breathing– Just before you meet your interviewer, it is important that you try and settle your nerves.  Breathing correctly will help you do this.  Take a deep breath, and breathe out slowly through your diaphragm, for as long as you can.  Repeat this as you wait until you feel yourself calm down.  This will also regulate the pitch and tone of your voice.  Nervousness can make your breathing erratic and make the sound of your voice high pitched, so ensure you breathe correctly so that when you start talking, your voice is at the perfect pitch and tone.

5. Meeting your interviewer – The first time you meet your interviewer it is vital that you create a great first impression.  And how do you do this? SMILE!  Dale Carnegie wrote a whole chapter on this in ‘How to win friends and influence people’.  If you smile, they will smile back and bingo, you’re off on the right foot!  The handshake is also very important.  You must give a firm handshake with palms touching, not so hard that you crush your interviewers hand, but not too soft that you give an impression of weakness.  Be careful of a ‘half handshake’ where you only manage to grab the fingers of the other persons hand, again this may mean low self- confidence,  and can be a sign of weakness.  Also try and carry a handkerchief in your pocket so that if your palms are sweaty when you meet your interviewer, you can put your hand in your pocket and dry your palm, just before you shake hands.

6. Eye Contact – As you meet your interviewer ensure you make and maintain eye contact.  If you don’t, again this could be a sign that you are not confident about the interview.  Continue to make eye contact throughout the interview at the appropriate times.  You cannot stare at your interviewer for every second of the interview, but you must use an appropriate amount of eye contact, at the right times.  Focus on the eye/nose section, (also known as the rapport building zone).  I interviewed a gentlemen once who was turned to the side, with his eyes facing the wall for most of the interview.  He barely made any eye contact with me at all.  When I asked him about this at the end of the interview, he wasn’t even aware that he was doing it!

7. Self Confidence– I’ve seen so many candidates, with great experience in the role that they’re applying for, deliver a poor interview on the day, because of low self confidence.  Confidence really is the key to your success!  If you are confident, your interviewer will see this,  and they will have confidence in you also.  They don’t want to hear about why you couldn’t do this or that, your fears or worries.  They want to hear that you CAN! You must maintain a positive approach to your interview and take this job application seriously.  You must tell yourself that you are the best candidate for the role, but above all, you must BELIEVE it!  Take it from me it is a joy to interview a candidate who is self confident.  If you think about it, during your interview you are only talking about yourself.  Who knows you better than you?  That’s right, nobody!  So believe in yourself and portray a confident image.

8. Positive Thinking– During the build up to your interview, make sure you are having positive thoughts.  Remember positive thoughts = positive feelings = positive outcomes.  Negative thoughts = exactly the same, negative outcomes!!  Each morning when you wake up, tell yourself you are the best person for that job.  Say it in your head over and over again.  Then when you go to bed, tell yourself again.  Say it 5 times in your head before you go to sleep, “I am the best candidate for that job, I am confident and will deliver a great interview”  You are planting positive thoughts of confidence and self belief into your sub-conscious.  Just before you meet your interviewer do exactly the same thing.  Whatever you do, don’t allow ANY negative thoughts into your mind.  If a negative thought creeps in, just give it a nudge out with a stronger positive thought.

9 Being a good listener– Yes that’s right, Listening!  You’re probably thinking but I’m here to talk about me, I should be the one doing all the talking, WRONG!  You’re interviewer is the person controlling the interview.  They will have a structure to follow in order to extract as much information about you as they can.  They will give you the opportunity to speak when they say, so use those opportunities wisely.  When asked a question, answer in around 4 or 5 concise sentences.  Don’t go on for 10 or 11 sentences.  Just stick to the facts, again highlighting the positives, then stop.  As an interviewer there is nothing worse than not being able to get a word in edge ways!  Sometimes the interviewer wants to talk so never ever interrupt.  If the interviewer is talking, let them talk, and you listen.  Really listen, don’t just hear, you must digest what is actually being said so that if they fire a question at you, you are ready to give an intelligent, positive answer. 

10. Ask intelligent questions– Prior to the interview, prepare around 4-5 intelligent questions.  Ask some during the interview, but always have at least 3 for the end of the interview.  By intelligent questions I don’t mean “What time is my break?” or “How many days holiday do I get a year?  I mean questions about the role, the company, the training, the infrastructure etc etc.  You need to be genuinely interested in how you are going to fit into the culture of the company.  It needs to be right for you, aswell as for the company.

When your interview is complete, give a firm handshake again and maintain eye contact.  Thank your interviewer for their time, and tell them you look forward to seeing them again soon.  Leave with your head held high knowing you have done everything you could, to land that job!

11.  Ok just like last week here’s a bonus tip.  Body Language – Maintain an open posture.  If you’re sitting with your arms folded or your shoulders dipped, you’re showing signs of discomfort.  Shoulders and back straight, arms by your sides or resting on your knees, square on,  and facing your interviewer.  If they see you having open body language, they should adopt a similar posture and feel comfortable around you, creating a positive start to the interview.