How to Make Yourself More Employable in 7 Seconds


Seven seconds. That, according to psychologists, is how long it takes to form a first impression. Considering creating a good first impression is only less important than work experience in clinching a job offer, getting those seven seconds right when you walk into an interview room is crucial.

Ready? Start the clock.


1… Unfold Your Arms

Body language is important. When we assess how someone else is feeling, over half of our analysis is derived from the way they hold themselves. So unless you want your interviewer to think you’re defensive, insecure, inflexible and closed-minded, don’t cross your arms.

We fold our arms to create a barrier between ourselves and the person we’re talking to. It’s a common way to deal with nervousness, but it’s the ultimate subconscious faux pas. So don’t do it!


2… Stand Up Straight

Even if you’re five-foot-nothing, always draw yourself up to your full height when greeting your interviewer. Good posture doesn’t just make you look more professional and self-assured, it makes you act more confident too. So-called ‘power postures’ are so effective that they inspire more assertiveness in an individual than giving them a powerful job title.

Creating an impression of height works in your favour too. Research shows that taller people are more successful than their diminutive counterparts. The logic is that evolutionary tics make us equate tallness with leadership and competence.


3… Smile

It sounds obvious, but it’s super easy to forget when you’re overcome with nerves and focused on rehearsing your CV in your head. So make a mental note to bare your pearly whites!

Smiley people are more likeable. In fact, research shows that when we have to pick someone to exclude from a group (read: reject for a job) we’re more likely to chuck out someone we think is unfriendly than someone we think is incompetent.

How many job applications ask for “positive” candidates? Ticking this box can be as simple as smiling sincerely. Smiley people are not just pleasant to be around, they make those they’re smiling at feel more positive too. And who wouldn’t want to hire the candidate that makes them feel good?


4… Hold Eye Contact

Not maintaining eye contact is the top body-language mistake a candidate can make, according to over two-thirds of employers. While you shouldn’t be staring someone out (think: blink) keeping good eye contact throughout an interview is essential.

Human beings tend to naturally maintain eye contact with people they like or admire, and look away when they are embarrassed or not paying attention. Because we are aware of the difference on at least a subconscious level, we look for the same cues in the people we’re talking to and judge them accordingly.

That’s why public speakers who maintain eye contact are thought to be more competent and believable, and why cereal whose cartoons are drawn to stare at shoppers are more likely to be bought.


5… Shake Hands Firmly

It sounds like a small thing, but a good handshake can make or break your interview. One study found that it mattered more than agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability. Hold your hand out first – it is a subtle way to show confidence and take control of the interview without seeming domineering.

Always grip the interviewers’ hand as firmly as you can without crushing their fingers, and if you’re prone to sweaty hands make sure you’ve discreetly wiped it on your suit before going in for the kill. Timing is everything – drop their hand too quickly and you convey disgust; hold their hand too long and you give the impression that you like them a little too much.


6… Introduce Yourself

Even if they have your name written down in front of them in three-foot-high letters, always greet an interviewer with “Hi [THEIR NAME], I’m [YOUR NAME]. It’s lovely to meet you.”

Why? It’s an easy way to break the ice, and shows confidence and assertiveness. Introductions are a social cue – swapping names makes you seem more personable, while referring to how pleased you are to be there shows enthusiasm for the opportunity.

It’s important to refer to the interview by name (and doubly important that you get their name right! Take some time to memorise it beforehand). People love to be treated as individuals, and few things wrap up our identity more powerfully than our name. That’s why it’s common knowledge amongst salespeople that repeatedly addressing a client by name helps integrate yourself with them. It might sound barmy, but science shows that when we hear our name it causes different parts of our brain to activate than those that are associated with regular speech.


7… Stay Standing

Finding the line between confidence (good) and arrogance (very, very bad) in a job interview can be tricky. The best candidates maintain a balance between taking charge of the situation and deferring to the interviewer who is, after all, the decision maker.

Having gone in with a strong handshake and assertive introduction, wait to take a seat until either you are invited to by the interviewer or they sit down. It’s polite without being self-doubting, and it indicates that you have respect for them and their authority in this situation.


Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specialising in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs London listings for roles or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.









Study Yourself Employable: Five Ways to Attack the New Academic Year

Maybe you’re a fresher, taking your first steps into the brave new world of tertiary education. Maybe you’re a finalist, peering over the barricade into the maw of full-time employment. Whichever it is, you need to start thinking about your employability – however unsexy that may sound.

Make your time at university count with our five-step essential guide.



It sounds obvious, but few students actually know what they want to do with their lives. Work it out, and fast. Students who know what career path they’re aiming for after university are more motivated, focussed and ultimately successful in their job applications.

University is a wonderful time to feel lost, make mistakes and discover yourself. Make sure that, in amongst this chaos, you’re also thinking about your future.



Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In… There are better uses for your newsfeed than resuscitating that hilarious Sean Bean meme from years back.

Market yourself. Start at uni, and you’ll avoid a painful re-branding process later along the line. Get a grip on your privacy settings. Half of employers Google their candidates before interview, and they don’t want to see those embarrassing fresher pics of you, half-naked, swigging Jack Daniels from a shoe. Keep your profile pictures innocuous, and your Insta cute rather than sexy. Check out Kanye’s Twitter, do the opposite, and you’ll be fine.

Once your online presence is nicely censored, it’s time to start building your online brand. Not on LinkedIn? Fix that. Want to be a writer of any kind? Get on WordPress. Link your articles back to your social media, and your clicks will rocket. Find conversations on Twitter relevant to your career path and engage.

Channel Destiny’s Child. Make sure people in your future industry are familiar with your name, however distantly. That way, when you walk into their interview room months along the line, you’ll have already laid the groundwork for a stunning application.



We don’t mean the academic kind – though that might help too. Eight out of ten students currently work part-time to help fund their studies, but that job is doing a lot more for them than bringing in the cash. A part-time job at uni shows you can juggle commitments, develop your skillset and – crucially – get on in a daily workplace.

And employers aren’t fussy. Work experience, vacation internships and volunteering all count. People who spend their holidays in employment, whether paid or not, are perceived as more dependable candidates than their less enterprising counterparts. Proving that you already have work experience counters regular complaints of a lack of commercial awareness, time management and initiative in graduate applicants.

Some students even choose to set up their own business. This is the ultimate symbol of a self-starter and looks highly impressive on any CV, whether the enterprise tanks or not. If you can run your own company while in full-time education, what can you do as a permanent employee?



That’s right. According to a study of 500 UK SMEs, 70% believed that extra-curricular activities – that includes sports, music, volunteering and travel – are a vital part of a grad’s job application. In fact, two in three employers placed as much or more emphasis on an applicant’s extra-curricular than their academic achievements.

People who partake in extra-curricular fields such as expeditions, societies and artistic pursuits regularly demonstrate improved creativity and self-motivation. They are perceived as self-starters, able to advance themselves within a company more easily and quickly than those with narrower skillsets.

So get out there and get moving. If you want to be in politics, get involved with your student union. If you want to be in music production, set up a club night. It doesn’t even matter if it’s unrelated to your future career – just do something.



I know, I know. It’s every student’s worst nightmare: the ‘schmooze social’. But be there or be square; often, the biggest regret graduates have re:university is not making the most of networking opportunities.

There are plenty of ways to do it. Go to the events advertised by your university. Prepare well and work the room. Email people you’ve met, or even haven’t met – a feedback email sent to a visiting speaker or academic you’ve seen, along with a suggestion to get coffee or link in, can work wonders. You can even keep a spreadsheet tracking who you’ve met and where.

“Follow the three-D rule,” advises Georgina Kilner, head of Henley Business School’s postgraduate programmes. “Do it now, do it every day and don’t worry about punching above your weight.”

Meeting people in the flesh should always be your end-game aim. This is how you make a good impression, practise your people skills and boost contacts. So embrace the awkward convos – you’ll get free alcohol out of it, if nothing else.

And there you have it. Five ways to turn your time at uni into an employer’s dream. This is one of the most important periods of your life – don’t waste it on booze and parties.


Susanna Quirke writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment firm which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.