Job Interview First Impressions

Are first impressions really that important?

When the decision comes to hire a new employee, the candidates that are chosen almost always will share similar educational backgrounds, skills and experience. Because of this, it can be the small things that make the difference between getting the job or not. A lousy handshake or dirty shoes can be all it takes to lose out on getting the job.

Top tips to make sure that your first impression counts!

Dressing appropriately

A person who looks professional portrays the image of being professional. A person who looks sloppy portrays an image of being sloppy. If two people walk into an office and candidate one is perfectly dressed with clean shoes a shirt tucked in and brushed hair, and candidate 2 walks in looking like they just woke up, it goes without saying which candidate will more likely get the job. Before even discussing their skills, the hiring manager’s first impression about professionalism has already been made.


As a hiring manager, I can tell you there is nothing more off putting than interviewing a candidate with bad hygiene. No matter what job you are applying for, bad breath or lack of hygiene is not going to help you to get ahead. There is a fine balance between wearing the right amount of perfume/aftershave or too much. If the interviewer can smell your perfume from across the table you are probably wearing too much!

Addressing the interviewer properly

Showing respect toward the interviewer is paramount. Remember the interviewer is not your best friend who you have known for many years. Using slang or shortening their name is not the correct way to make a good first impression.


A great mistake you can make in the interview is to speak too much and not answer questions. Interviewing is a 2-way process. Not only do you need to directly answer the interview questions, but you need to listen to what the interviewer is saying. Unless it is a direct yes or no answer, always provide examples and evidence to support what you are saying. Make sure you leave the interviewer with no doubts that you are the right person for the job.

Handshake and Smile

When you walk into the interview, a solid handshake and smile will go a long way to building rapport with the interviewer and will also leave a positive memory in their minds after the interview has finished. Typically the person who is interviewing you will often be your boss, and therefore they will want to know that not only do you have the skills required to do the job, but that they are going to want to work with you on a daily basis.



Tips for Interviews

Tips for interviews

Details:  Make sure you have full details of the interview, ie- number of people in the interview, their titles, time, date and address.

Time keeping:  Make sure you get there on time. Aim to be 15 minutes early. Plot your route, and be aware of heavy traffic times.

Research:  Do as much research on the company as possible. This is very important as it shows that you are interested in the organisation, and will enable you to ask relevant questions. Research the news- has the company been in the news? Have a look at the company’s stock- have there been any drastic movements? Perhaps a new CEO/ CFO etc.

CV:  This may sound obvious, but make sure you know your CV. You must be comfortable with what is on your CV. Some recruiters may change the content or wording somewhat and this may throw you off balance during an interview. Ensure that you have good reasons for leaving all your previous roles etc.

The role: Again this may sound obvious, but make sure you know all you can about the role you are applying for. Take a job spec with you, and make sure you study it before hand. Exploratory interviews are sometimes harder as there is no central point to focus on.

Examples: Always try use workable examples when asked questions. For example: Q: Are you a team player? A: “Yes I believe I am. In fact, just the other day I stayed behind to help a colleague finish an important document.” Using examples will give credibility to your answers. Try think of work situations before the interview, as they may not come to you during the interview.

Strengths and weaknesses: So clichéd- 98% of recruitment companies will tell you “You want to describe your weaknesses as strengths.” I would ask- why are you applying for a job that highlights your weaknesses? Be confident, you have been successful so far, this is due to your strengths, not your weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses, but not necessarily relating to your job.

Questions: Use your research and prepare a list of relevant questions.

Career: Don’t be afraid to ask about career progression. Companies will look for candidates who want to learn and grow. Having said that, companies will not be looking for candidates who are not committed to a role.

Rapport: Rapport is essential and needs to be established from the outset. Smile; be positive and confident in your ability. Use interviewers names- make sure you get them right (keep business cards in front of you).

Conclusion: Most importantly be yourself. You will not get every interview that you attend, however you want to make a good impression and give it your best shot.

Get in touch by sending us an update CV, as well as your plans and commitments. We are more than happy to help.

Brett Duncan – Managing Partner : Tel: 011 301 0905/ Cell: 0823841953/ Fax: 011 301 0944

Deborah Akeroyd – Associate: Tel: 011 301 0919/ Cell: 0760963373/ Fax: 011 301 0944

Asanda Sokutu- Associate: Tel: 011 301 0903/ Cell: 0735931408/ Fax: 011 301 0944

Top Tips to Help Writing a CV

Your CV needs to be an accurate account of your career to date. The information you provide must be to the point, and easy to digest. Studies have shown that the first 10-15 seconds of someone viewing your CV are the most critical.

Here are some tips that we recommend bearing in mind when you are writing a CV, for the first time, or merely updating it with your latest experience:

Important information:
I.D number, Current Address and areas where you would consider working, Ethnicity, Nationality, Availability for interview, notice period with your current employer.

N.B: Clients and recruiters will determine much from this information when screening CV’s. If clients or recruiters are not sure they may over-look your CV and focus on a more informative CV.

For example: if a client is looking for a candidate to start ASAP, they will select the candidates who have mentioned they are immediately available first. Clients will more than likely select CV’s which state- “immediately available”, and over look the ones that have no availability mentioned.

Include all education, even if you may think it not relevant to Financial Services.
List the most recent education first including the dates (months).
Include transcripts, 1st time passes etc.
Include academic achievements- top of class, academic colours, Head boy/ Girl etc.

These are important but need to be relevant to your current work environment and the role which you are applying for.
For example, a cooking course is great, however not relevant if applying for a Financial Services vacancy.

IT/ Systems:
Include all IT software experience even systems you may have used a while ago, as it may put you ahead of those who have no experience of the system at all.
List the level to which you can use software- for example- Excel to macro level- advanced (current).

Dates of employment must include months.
Any gaps of 4 weeks or longer should be explained- travelling abroad, maternity etc.
Most recent work experience first.
Non-recent roles need to be explained, but not in depth.
Always include a reason for leaving.

Points to note:
CV should be written in the 3rd person.
Bullet point your experience, highlighting the most relevant part of your current role.
Try not to waffle, be specific regarding your duties and list facts. i.e- “Manage a team of five Credit Analysts covering NBFI’s”
Make sure to include all achievements including any deal/ client activity. It is important to highlight the level of responsibility within any project or client.

This should be discussed with your recruiter and we generally leave off a CV, but will include in a covering letter. CV’s are often seen by a number of staff, and salary information is confidential.

Applying through an agency or direct is somewhat different. At Duncan & Associates we understand the Financial Services Sector and our clients. We are able to guide you through the application process and ensure that you are given the best possible chance of securing an interview, and ultimately the role you are looking for.

Should you wish to have a confidential conversation regarding advice on your current CV, or would like to discuss the market in general, please do not hesitate to get in touch.