How Not to Ruin Your Image at the Interview

If there’s anything 20 years as a senior executive has taught me, it’s that it’s unbelievably easy to form a bad impression of a candidate. In other words, it is easy to decide who NOT to hire the moment they walk through the door.

According to research by Roy F. Baumeister, professor of social psychology at Florida State University, “bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones”. Thus, when it comes to interviews, it is critical you are not struck off the list immediately.

Here are the top 10 “image breakers” to avoid. Check this list before your job interviews!

#1 Being Late

There is no excuse for being late for an interview. Being late sends the message that the job is not important enough for you. People will also assume that you’d be late for work as well.

Tip: Before the interview day, make a trip to the venue and time the journey. On an actual day, buffer 15 minutes for unexpected delays, and aim to reach at least 10 minutes before the scheduled time.

#2 Messy Hair

Messy hair means that you don’t care, and the assumption is you probably don’t care about the details at work as well.

Tip: Keep your fringe short and don’t let hair cover your eyes! Pin it back or tie it neatly if you need to.

#3 No Smile

This can mean many things to the interviewer. Nervous? Not confident? Not interested? Unfriendly? Stop making them guess – flash them your most confident smile.

Tip: Practise your best smile in the mirror, and when you talk to your friends!

#4 Inappropriate Dressing

What you wear should be appropriate for the job, company and environment. If your dressing does not match their image, they will see you as a bad fit.

Tip: Check the company’s website to get a feel of their brand image, and align yourself to their styles and colours.

Are online interviews going to be the new norm for jobseekers

#5 Sloppy Dressing

Anything that does not fit you well is sloppy. It is better to wear a simple outfit that is fitting than a branded suit that is one size too big. Don’t give the impression that you set low standards.

Tip: Check that your outfit is not too tight or too loose at the shoulders, chest, waist and hips.

#6 Bad Manners

This applies the moment you step into the office – from the reception desk to the interview room. My secretary used to send me warnings about candidates who were rude to her, and those would be red flags to me.

Tip: Treat others the way you’d want to be treated, regardless of their rank.

#7 Body Odour / Bad Breath

Nothing puts people off more than body odour or bad breath. Employers wouldn’t want to deal with this issue after hiring you, so it’s easier to strike you off the list.

Tip: Have a shower before the interview and use deodorant or mouthwash if necessary!

#8 No Eye Contact

Your eyes are indeed the windows to your soul – a lack of eye contact is akin to hiding your true self from the interviewer! Remember: when you look away, you take attention away from yourself.

Tip: Get into the habit of making eye contact by checking the colour of your friends’ eyes as you talk to them!

#9 What You Don’t Say

Interviewers learn more about you by observing your non-verbal communications than what you say. So avoid negative body language like crossing your arms, fidgeting, giggling too much/laughing too loudly, signs of lying (e.g. touching your ears), or shaking your legs (a sign of nervousness).

Tip: Make it a habit to use positive body language in your own daily interactions, as habits are formed over a period of time.

#10 Badmouthing Others

One of the most common mistakes is to badmouth your ex-employer when asked for the reason for leaving. Even if it’s true, you should never say that at a job interview. It simply reflects badly on you.