How do I make a good first impression at my interview?

You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but most of us do. There may be a classic novel lurking behind that sleeve, but we rarely take it off the shelf and open it to find out. It's the same with interviews: if you turn up looking a mess or with a scowl on your face, you may as well have saved the bus fare.

Start as you mean to go on

Firstly, and most importantly, make sure you arrive ten minutes before your interview is to begin. If you are worried that your time-keeping may let you down, give the journey a trial run before the interview if you are able to. This will hopefully highlight any potential travel issues or unexpected diversions.

Your interviewer will probably see you before they hear you, so knowing what to wear in an interview can put you ten points ahead of the opposition before you've even opened your mouth.

Start your courtesy at the door. Even before you get to the interview room or meet your interviewers, be well-mannered and positive with the reception staff and anyone else you encounter on the way to your interview. You could be working with them in a few weeks' time. This is also a great opportunity to make sure your voice isn't about to crack or dry up on you – try to relax a bit, and build up some confidence before your interview starts. You will have no idea of the structure of the company or who has influence in the decision making process so treat everyone with equal courtesy. The receptionist may be related to your interviewer and could have a major influence on your future. Your body language and handshake are vital in creating the right impression. Make sure you're not avoiding eye contact, glancing nervously from side-to-side, playing with your clothing or fiddling with the zip on your bag.

Building up the right impression

Interviews are often scary, sometimes intimidating and frequently stressful. This is a theatrical performance - they are the audience, you are the performer, and you're on your own. But don't be freaked out by it all; remember why you're here, be clear about what you want to say and what you want to ask, and keep your cool. Preparing properly for your interview should put you at ease as you'll have confidence that you know enough about yourself, the role and the company to answer the common interview questions.

Positivity personified

In the first few minutes, be as positive about everything as you can. Even if you've had a horrible journey, try not to let your frustration show. Don't forget to smile from time to time, and show interest in what you are being asked. When quizzed about your current or most-recent role, don't be tempted to bad-mouth your employer, however much you might be looking forward to leaving. Show them you're here because you see it as a positive career move, not because you're running from a job you're not happy in or were desperate to get away from. Showing a positive attitude is the single most valuable first impression you can make. If you are excited and up for it, your potential employer will probably be considering you for the job within two minutes of you walking through the door. The right attitude really can have that much impact.