How to Present a Positive and Professional Image for Success in Interviews and in your Overall Career
by Dinah Day
Professional Image and Career Coach
What Is An Interview Anyway?
An interview is an instant relationship based on how you look, sound and come across in those precious moments when you are about to interact and speak with a “stranger,” the interviewer. An interview is also a dance where one starts off “leading” and the other “following”. It’s up to the interviewer to set the tone and then the “interviewee” to match what he/she sees and senses is the way to get along best. So very quickly it will be difficult to see who is leading and who now is doing the following. The dance of “rapport” (or trust in a person’s competence) will be established and all that takes time.
If you are a fast talker and you are sitting across from a slower speaker, you shouldn’t maintain your usual pace. You say to yourself, “I want to get along better with this new person in my life.” Therefore, you will slow down and pay attention to what the interviewer is saying, notice the way they are sitting and make mental notes on their most favorite words or slogans (company jargon). By finding “common ground” upon which to rest the interview, you have to listen and respond to what you hear — not to what you want to say. Egos must be checked at the door along with your coats!
An interview is also a party for who you are, what you’ve done and what you are able to do as a new employee of the xyz Company. Therefore, we all love parties; so go to many parties where you know very few people and walk up to a person or group and initiate a conversation, such as, “How do you happen to know the host/hostess?” or say your name and your organization and ask what business your listener is in. Avoid asking, “What do you do?” It’s an opportunity to be less private in public.
There are 5 V’s of making positive and professional impressions that last and we are going to start this article with the most crucial one, the Visual Impressions. The others are Vocal, Verbal, Visceral and Validity components.
There is a Harvard Business School statistic stating that 55% of our first impression is a visual one with 28% being the vocal tones and the remaining 17% is the verbal — the actual words we use. That may well be the textbook statistics but I say that 100% is visual.
If you enter a room with poise, good posture, confidence, a gait that is unhurried, a well-groomed, neat and appropriate appearance, with friendly eye contact and a firm (2 pumps) handshake, you will be remembered for all those elements. However, and it’s a big “however,” if you lack the ability to manage the small talk in an appealing voice range, the entire outfit goes down the drain! What that vital visual impact does is to set up expectations about how you will sound and how much business information you will be able to communicate.
“Looking good” is only a piece of your total “executive presence.” It needs to be followed up with proper diction, enunciation, listening and allowing others to finish their thoughts and corporate courtesies.
Before your initial interview with the xyz Company, do your visual and intellectual homework to find out the recent activities and trends and how their employees dress. (Find an annual report which shows pictures. Or an internal company magazine or newsletter.) Look for clothes that are considered “professional” and that are in good shape (pressed, clean and not smelling of the cigarettes you are trying to give up). Look through business magazines and see what everyone is wearing that is considered “casual” or “to impress.” You always want to dress for where you are going and not for where you are!
In my next column, we will be discussing your verbal and vocal skills. In the meantime, pay attention to what you see that you would like to emulate and do so. Or if someone has a particular manner of speech, try to mimic that sound or quality. Practice makes for progress and participation.
Dinah Day, at The Image Circle, invites BMA members and friends to contact her to share interview experiences or techniques. She also welcomes opportunities for new client consultation.
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