Forces Recruitment Solutions

Ex-Military Recruitment Specialists

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Jun 13, 2017

Creating the Right First Impression

Interviews are something most of us leaving the forces have little experience of and they can be a daunting experience.  One area where we can really help ourselves is by creating a great first impression when meeting or speaking to a potential employer for the first time.

It’s human nature that we make up our minds about someone in the first 20 seconds or so of meeting them, so with a little forethought and planning (PPPPPP!)  you can give yourself a head start over the competition

Your arrival

Firstly, the first person you’re likely to meet is the Receptionist.  Don’t underestimate them.  Give them a cheery smile and be polite.  You never know if they are going to be consulted about their first impression of you!  Arrive about 15 minutes early so you have time to find the exact office, perhaps with a stop at to the WC to conduct a final grooming check.  Read the press cuttings and the company PR  that is nearly always on display.  You might pick up some relevant information on members of the interviewing panel and the companies recent performance.  At this point, if you haven’t already done so, turn off your phone!

Appearance and Bearing

This should come naturally to us, shouldn’t it?  After x amount of years service, if you are not the smartest and best groomed person they interview that day or even that week, …………it goes without saying that we should score top marks in this area.  Dressing for success and proper grooming are essential. It’s important to wear suitable clothing, be neat and tidy, and smartly dressed.  Additionally, never arrive with any kind of food in your mouth or on your teeth, and try not to smoke right before the interview.

The Interview

Nine times out of ten you will be greeted with a handshake and this little act can have immense consequences.  We’ve all experienced the flabby wet handshake from someone at some point and you’ll remember the feeling that it left you with.  You’ll also remember the times when someone has seemed intent on sending you to casualty!  A limp lettuce or a bone-crusher all leave their mark on the interviewer’s psyche and it can be several minutes before the effect wears off. Go, if you can, for the middle ground – firm and dry. If you don’t know what kind of handshake you have, practise on a friend.  It is important that as you shake hands that you make eye contact, which leads me nicely on to;

A great deal of communication between two people takes place through the eyes, so during your interview you need to look at the interviewer/s.  Aim for an open, confident gaze rather than a fixed stare.  Remember, they liked you enough to invite you for an interview, so they will be happy to see you. The interviewer is not your enemy – there’s nothing they want more than a successful interview. Maintain a decent level of eye contact throughout the interview, but especially at the start.  Don’t maintain it to the point of falling over furniture on the way to your chair or making them feel uncomfortable, but an appropriate level of eye contact will show confidence and that you are personable.  Also, share the eye contact between the interviewing panel.  Staring at one throughout will make the others feel excluded.


However uncomfortable it may feel it is important to squeeze out a natural smile when you first meet your interviewers.  With the odd exception, interviewers are normal people who will respond positively if you appear in the interview room with a smile on your face. You may feel more like crying than smiling but resist the temptation. Don’t force yourself but do give it a try. What usually happens, unless the interviewer is trying to play bad cop (very rare), is that they smile back. The ice is broken and you have leapt the first hurdle.


As service men/women, we have all developed what can only be termed as a ’warped sense of humour’.  Our levels of banter can at times be described as extreme and to be honest, it is something that is rarely understood outside of the forces.  It’s what gets us through the tough times, the hardships and sometimes even the losses.  Unfortunately, sometimes when we’re nervous, it has a habit of surfacing.  Don’t, whatever you do, use what you might deem as appropriate ‘squaddie’ humour at your interview!  The chances are they won’t get it or appreciate it and you’ll blow your chances of what could be your dream job in a ‘one liner’.

So there you have it!  There is much more to it than this, but these are the basics and things will get easier with practice.   But be punctual, be smart and do your homework on the interviewing panel and it will all pay off in time!

Lee Clayson is the Regional Director, South West of England for Forces Recruitment Services and is based in Plymouth.  Click here for his contact details on the Forces Recruitment Services (South West) microsite.


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