By Nisa Chitakasem, Founder of Position Ignition.
Whether it’s a job interview or networking event, leaving a great impression is extremely important. Think not only about what you say, but how you say it, what your body language conveys and what you do to follow up after the event. When it comes to landing a new job or building long-term professional relationships, the line between failure and success is fine. The margins for error, therefore, are small. Being able to present yourself well will give you the edge over the other job seekers, career changers and networkers out there.
A lot of it comes down to common sense, but there are a few tips and tricks that add a nice, subtle touch to any type of encounter you might have in the professional world.
Protect your throat. We all remember that person with a really clear speaking voice. Protect your throat to achieve clarity of voice by avoiding fried foods, caffeine, alcohol and excessive dairy for a week before a big occasion.
Dress smartly but comfortably. If what you’re wearing is uncomfortable, others will notice when you start fiddling with it. Try wearing the entire outfit for a whole day at work, or out job seeking, before you decide to wear it for a more formal event.
Get plenty of sleep. Someone who’s alert and ready to engage energizes those around them. Conversely, if you’re too tired to focus, it’ll look like you can’t be bothered to pay attention. The night before a big day, get at least eight hours of shut eye.
Eat well. If you want people to notice you and not the sound of your tummy rumbling, be sure to eat a light but filling meal before leaving for an important event. The boost to your blood sugar will also aid your all-round performance.
Shake hands properly. People always remember the handshake and how it made them feel. Put out your full hand, avoiding the half-handed (and half-hearted) grip; this can feel like a cold fish. Shake firmly, but don’t make it a bone crusher.
Mind your body language. A person’s body language majorly influences your impression of them, even if you don’t realize it on a conscious level. So be mindful of your own body language. Leave your arms unfolded and maintain eye contact to put others at ease in your presence.
Give full answers. Ever planned to dazzle someone with your sparkling conversation but ended up giving nothing but monosyllabic answers instead? This is an easy trap to fall into if someone’s asking you closed questions, so think about what extra information you can add to your reply before you answer such questions.
Remember names. We’re likely to feel more valued by someone if they remember our name. When you’re introduced to anyone, refer to them by name when you say hello – “Hello Nisa, pleasure to meet you”. This will help you to remember their name when you part ways: “Nice to talk to you Simon, I’ll be in touch”.
Offer help. You want to be known as a giver, not a taker. In job interviews, suggest hypothetical solutions for problems you know the organisation to be having. At networking events, ask the people you talk to what you can do for them.
Send a thank you note. Whether it’s after an interview or a business event, send a quick thank you email to the interviewer or your new contact to show your appreciation for their time and the opportunity to meet them.
The way you make a person feel often dictates what impression of you they’re left with. So think smartly about what others are thinking when they meet you and look at your appearance and behaviour. Consider how they’re feeling when they’re interacting with you and do everything to make them feel valued by you – they, in return, will value you.
About the author
Nisa Chitakasem is founder of Position Ignition, the UK’s leading Career Consulting Company, and co-author of 135 Networking Tips. Nisa co-founded Position Ignition.com to provide career consulting to people looking for guidance and support through their career change, new career direction, job search and career development.