The Crucial First Moments
The beginning of the interview is the most important, because it determines the tone. Do you smile when you meet? Do you establish enough eye contact, but not too much? Do you walk into the office with a self-assured and confident stride? Do you shake hands firmly? Do you make small talk easily, without being garrulous, or do you act formal and reserved, as though under attack? It's human nature to judge people by that first impression, so make sure it's a good one.
Arriving for the Interview
When you arrive for the interview, the first person you will probably meet is the receptionist or secretary. Let this person know you are here. Remember to be polite and respectful. Secretaries and receptionists often report their impressions of job candidates to their bosses.
If you are asked to, take a seat in the waiting area. If you are offered coffee politely turn it down. You don't want to have to balance a cup of coffee and your briefcase or portfolio while trying to shake hands with the interviewer when she greets you.
You may be asked to fill out an application while you wait. This is one reason you should have brought a pen. If you didn't, ask the receptionist if you can borrow one. It's not a bad idea to have a cheat sheet with you listing all pertinent dates, in case the application asks for that information.
Meeting the Interviewer
When the interviewer greets you he will likely extend his hand to you. Give a firm handshake. If you aren't used to shaking hands, practice a lot before the interview. A firm handshake — not a crushing one — indicates self-confidence.
Wait for the interviewer to offer you a seat before taking one. If she doesn't offer you a seat, follow her lead. When she sits down, you should as well.
Setting the Right Tone
The interviewer's decision about whether you'll be invited back for an additional interview will probably be influenced by your attitude and personality as much as your qualifications. So don't concentrate too much on trying to project the perfect image. Just try to relax and visualize yourself as smooth and confident.
Also remember that some things are beyond your control — some interviews go well without any effort on your part (and you still may not get the job), and others go awry no matter how poised you are (and sometimes you're offered the job anyway).
Generally, you should try to stress the following characteristics:
Strong work ethic
Often the interviewer will begin, after the small talk, by telling you about the company, the division, the department, and the position. Because of your detailed research, the information about the company should be repetitive for you, and the interviewer would probably like nothing better than to avoid this regurgitation of the company biography. So if you can do so tactfully, indicate that you're familiar with the firm. If the interviewer seems intent on providing you with background information despite your hints, then acquiesce. If you can manage to generate a brief discussion of the company or the industry at this point without being forceful, that would be great. It will help build rapport, underscore your interest, and increase your impact.