Interviews can be won or lost in the first five minutes. Your relationship with the interviewers, especially your non-verbal communication, is crucial in the success of the interview. If you appear to be confident and enthusiastic from the outset, your answers are more likely to be reviewed positively.
The tone of your voice will impact upon the impression that you leave. How you speak communicates both negative (anxiety, uncertainty, boredom) and positive (interest, enthusiasm, confidence) emotions. Before entering the room, choose three words that describe the impression you would like to make. (eg confident, intelligent and competent). Show those three words in your voice, eyes, body and face. Try to hold on to this throughout the interview. You can repeat this if you begin to feel nervous.
It may help create a strong, confident impression if you have an opening line prepared. Eg "Good morning, pleased to meet you, I'm Michelle Minter", or "Hello, I'm Michelle Minter, it's a pleasure to meet you." Choose something you feel comfortable saying. Smile and talk to, not at, the interviewer. Show the interviewer that you are glad to meet them and you are enthusiastic about the job. Remember, you don't have to use this opening, other conversation may take place, but it is useful to have prepared and practiced a backup opening line.
Your handshake is a form of non-verbal communication. Consciously try to communicate to the interviewer that you are glad to meet them, through your firm handshake. Allow the interviewer to 'lead' the handshake, but meet them half way. Think about the impression you would like to create and use this as your guide to strength in the handshake. Use your face, eyes and body at the same time, to convey the same message. Face the interviewer and perhaps move slightly towards them when you shake hands. Relax your shoulders and your arm.
Have a tiny piece of 'small talk' prepared such as comments on: the weather, current events, news, company location etc. It may be difficult to think of things to say on-the-spot due to nerves or other factors. At the interview, be aware of your interviewer and ensure that your small talk is appropriate to the interviewer.
Remember that the interviewer is a person, so talk to them. Take in their responses, monitor their body language, think about their perspective. Subtle mirroring and responsiveness to the interviewer will help build rapport (ie if the interviewer leans forward, you may lean forward, if the interviewer sits with arms on the table, you may do the same).
Wait until you are offered a chair before sitting. Keep your gestures, body and face open. Lean forward slightly to give the appearance of confidence and interest. Position yourself so that you are sitting right back into the chair, so that your lower-back is fully supported. Maintain appropriate eye contact throughout the interview (Do not stare or look away too much). Listen to what the interviewer is telling you about the organisation and your likely role within it, use appropriate listing cues such as nodding, saying aha etc. Try to look interested at all times.
Listen to the interviewer and clarify the question if you do not understand it. You can't answer a question adequately if you don't understand what is being asked. The bucket approach (ie throwing everything that you know about the question) seldom answers the questions adequately. Try to relate your answers to the requirements of the position and the organisation. See our interview question preparation sheet for a structure for answering questions.
Have your own intelligent questions prepared before the interview, as in many cases, interviewers will give you time to ask questions or make further comments at the end of the interviewer. If you have any important things to add about your suitability, do it here. See questions to ask in an interview for questions to ask the interviewer.
Have a closing statement prepared (eg Thank you for your time, it was a pleasure to meet you) so that you leave a confident and enthusiastic impression with the interviewer.