So…you are preparing for your interview…. How robust is your capacity for making eye contact with others? For shaking hands when you are introduced? For using an individual’s name in conversation?

These are all important factors in your part in making a good first impression. Yes–your resume and cover letter have done their part, but if your in-person presence doesn’t live up to the promise of your written materials, you can easily slide down lower on the hiring scale.

During your in-person interview, you must make eye contact with each person in the room. If this is difficult for you, find someone to practice with. Practice in front of a mirror. Go back to the old speakers’ technique of imagining everyone in the room in their underwear–and don’t giggle! The idea isn’t ridiculous, after all.

What keeps us from making eye contact? Shyness? Fear? The “impostor syndrome?” Perfectionism? Feelings of inferiority or superiority?

How can you spin (to yourself) the goals you have for this interview, and the goals the interviewer has, to enable you to do your best?

An in-person interview is not solely a vehicle for judging you–it is your opportunity to decide if this job will be a good fit for you–or not. Eye contact helps you find meaning in their questions and your answers. It helps you establish your own credibility and confidence, and it helps you discern things about those who are interviewing you. Eye contact helps establish an environment of trust, humor, and purpose.

The handshake–do you need to work on yours? Is it limp and noodley? Bone crushingly strong? Please find a happy  medium–and use it as you are introduced to people, or as you are introducing yourself. I always try to say, “Hi! I’m Alice.” and stick out my hand…. If you’re in front of the mirror, you can practice that while making eye contact with yourself. <big grin>

Be sure to use each person’s name during your time together. Repeat the name when you are introduced, so you will be more apt to remember it. If you need to, use the meeting trick and write down the names in seating-chart fashion. Use a person’s name when you are answering a question, or asking one of your own.

“Jane, that’s a good question. I do have experience with PeopleSoft and my role in the past has been to verify the consistency of the names assigned to the data fields.”

“John, could you tell me a bit more about how I would be interacting with your off-site partners?”

Just like anything else we may want to improve, whether it’s golfing, knitting, writing, or getting to Carnegie Hall, improving our interviewing skills takes “Practice, Practice, Practice!”

Go forth and conquer!