Nicky Pattinson specialises in ‘show business selling’ and regularly works with Pitman Training at conferences and events. Here she gives us her thoughts on making the right impression in an interview, so that what you put on paper matches what you offer from the first second you meet your potential new employer.

Your preparation starts way before you’ve even washed your hair on the morning of a big interview. No doubt your perfectly polished CV has already done you the job of getting you sat there across the table, but you’ve got to tell the company who you really are and sell the idea of having you join them when they contact you. The truth is that someone will be thinking ‘Do I want this person in my business and my life?’. So you need to put some thought into your response to that question. You could come back with a simple ‘Thank you, I confirm I will be able to attend’, or something along those lines, but that type of bland response isn’t likely to get you remembered in a crowd of people who have all said the same thing, is it?

Include a sentence or two that are an extension of you and your personality, something like ‘Great, thank you, I’m really looking forward to this – you clearly have an interesting company with very ambitious and exciting plans. I love Pontefract and I’ll probably call at my favourite coffee shop there afterwards. It’ll give me time to reflect on our conversation and all the information you’ve given me’. Assuming your interview actually is in Pontefract, what you’ve done is painted a picture with your words. You’ve told them you really care about this interview, you are gripped by a challenge and excited by a project. You’re a thoughtful and reflective person, and you make the most of every opportunity and meeting that comes along. You’ve started to tell the story. And you’ve also told them you’ll be analysing and assessing the conversation – critical skills for a great PA.

When I put on events at hotels, I make sure I have a room with a view of where my guests for the day will be arriving. I’m told everything I need to know about a person by how they arrive. for example, where and how do they park their car, how do they carry themselves as they get out and walk towards the door, are they walking with purpose and confidence or is their head down nervously and walking with reticence? It’s all there in everything we say and do. The chances are someone will be looking out at that car park so put yourself in the moment and show everyone the reality – you know what you want.

I could talk for hours about this subject. I know this because I’ve had literally thousands of meetings over the years. There are a lot of components to winning. It’s a saturated world and you need to make people clear on one fact: It’s you they need.
My grandparents might have met 200 people in their lifetime. My parents will have met about 200 people a year. It’s now highly possible for us to meet 200 people a week so it’s impossible to remember everyone. How will people remember you? Well, a visual anchor is a good starting place – a scarf or some interesting earrings (appropriate for the position and company, of course. Now’s not the time for big danglies) will help.

Tone of voice is something many people don’t consider. This is show business selling and you’re an actor or actress. It’s not about being overpowering or over projecting but using our voice in a commanding and powerful way (even a gentle voice – unlike my own!). Pace tone and delivery. Don’t ramble, don’t be monotone. Express what you mean.

Not wanting to sound patronising here, but have you thought about your handshake. Get hold of the interviewers hand and look into their eyes. You have arrived on the premises.

The choice is rarely made by one person so be aware of other people in the building. Talk to the receptionist – phone in advance to double-check directions so they know who you are when you arrive (that’s what I do) – and ask them questions. Look people in the eye as you’re shown around the building and have something to say to everyone you meet.

I’ve been to literally thousands of sales meetings and met thousands of executive secretaries and PAs, good and bad. The good ones sell the company. They make me feel like they know about me and they make me feel important. You need to show that you are the right person for the job by using some show business selling. Body language, what you wear and how you react to other people in the company are all part of this – it’s about what you do and the way that you do it.

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