How to Make a Great First Impression at Your Interview
Job interviews are stressful enough. But did you know most hiring managers may base their decisions on a first impression, which can take mere seconds?
Several studies over the years have shown we form first impressions of people very quickly. In a job interview, this can make or break your chances of landing the position. About 33% of hiring managers said in one survey they know whether they’ll hire someone within the first 90 seconds of meeting him or her.
Hiring managers form these first impressions based on things such as the way job candidates are dressed, their body language, and even how they walk through the door. Once the interview starts, managers also evaluate nonverbal communication such as eye contact, body posture, and tone of voice.
All this talk about first impressions may be making you even more nervous about that upcoming interview – but don’t despair. The more prepared you are for the interview, the better you’ll be able to exude confidence and poise.
We’ll delve into how to make an excellent first impression during your next interview, covering everything from what you should wear to how to prepare beforehand.
Do Your Homework
The worst thing you can do is come to an interview unprepared. Nearly every hiring manager will know if you’re unprepared, which will make for a disastrous first impression.
Preparing for the interview takes a lot of work, but it’s time well spent. Research the company and the people who will be interviewing you. Also, re-read the job description and think about how your experience and skills align with the company’s expectations.
Some of the interview questions you’ll face will be a no-brainer – the common ones involved in almost every interview, such as, “Tell me about yourself.” Make sure you’re ready for them. These common questions are akin to your elevator pitch, and you’ll want to make your answers count.
You’ll also likely be asked to talk about examples of your past work, so be ready for this, as well. When answering these types of questions, be ready to talk about your transferrable skills.
Another good thing to keep in mind is to use the “STAR method” when answering most interview questions. The interviewer may ask about a time when you used a specific skill to solve a problem. With the STAR method, you can succinctly answer these questions by telling stories with a Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
Salary considerations may not come up during the first interview but be ready if they do. Determine what your salary range is and be prepared to share it with the interviewer. If you’re unsure what salary range is appropriate, there are many free sites online where you can gather this information, including Indeed’s Salary Calculator.
If you’re well prepared for the interview, you’ll be more relaxed during it, which will help you make a great first impression. Hiring managers look for candidates who seem genuinely excited and interested in the position.
Dress for Success
Appearance is crucial for first impressions, so make sure you dress appropriately for the interview. What you should wear will differ based on the company and the position you’re after, so put good thought into your attire.
Find out what the dress code is by doing a little research on the company. If you’re working with a recruiter, ask him or her. If not, check the company’s website and social media pages and see what employees typically wear.
It’s best to plan your attire the night before. Pay attention to details, too. Iron clothes so they’re not wrinkled, shine your shoes, and plan an outfit so you’re dressed for success. Pay attention to grooming the day of the interview and keep it simple with your attire. Don’t overdo accessories like jewelry and avoid excess perfume or cologne.
Also, plan the time the commute to the company’s office, thus reducing the chance you get lost the day of the interview. If you’re doing a video interview, download the software ahead of time, practice on it with a friend, and have your personal interview space ready the night before.
It should go without saying: never show up late to the interview. Plan to be there 10 to 15 minutes early, which will give you enough time to fill out any necessary paperwork and get comfortable. Showing up late creates such a negative first impression that it could doom the interview before it even starts.
Be Mindful of Body Language
It’s obvious you’ll treat the hiring manager with respect – but remember to show appreciation and respect to everyone you meet during the interview. You’ll likely sign in at a front desk and may interact with other employees before the interview, so make sure you greet them warmly and confidently.
Once the interview starts, things like body language and posture become incredibly important. Show an energetic, upbeat, and appreciative attitude during the interview, and remember to smile. Body language, posture, and tone of voice are essential in making an excellent first impression.
Don’t slouch during the interview – sit straight in your chair and lean slightly toward whom you’re speaking with, which shows you’re engaged. Avoid body language cues that send the wrong signals, like crossing your arms or legs or fidgeting. It’s important to also make good eye contact, but don’t overdo it.
These body language do’s and don’ts apply during the interview and even beforehand. Give a firm handshake when you meet the interviewer, and don’t play on your cellphone while in the waiting room. During the interview, turn your cellphone off and put it away entirely.
Make sure you bring copies of your resume and a pen and pad of paper to take occasional notes during the interview. Be prepared to ask smart questions at the end, which always impresses hiring managers. Remain positive and never talk negatively about past employers.
Lastly, remember the interview time is limited, so be concise in answering questions and avoid rambling. Try to always tie back your answers to past accomplishments and your enthusiasm for the opportunity.
Keep Calm and Carry on
It’s natural to be a bit anxious during an interview, and hiring managers expect people to be at least slightly nervous. But don’t let your anxiety get the best of you – to the point it hinders your performance. Being overly anxious could make a poor first impression.
As we mentioned, being prepared will lessen anxiety during the interview. But there are other things you can do, as well. Avoid excessive caffeine and get a good night’s sleep before the interview.
If the hiring manager starts asking very tough questions, remind yourself that he or she may be trying to test you. It doesn’t automatically mean they think you’re unqualified or don’t like you as a candidate. Knowing this can prevent you from melting under pressure and spiraling into negative thinking.
Remind yourself the interview is a chance for you to evaluate the company, as well. Putting yourself in this frame of mind takes some of the pressure off. It’s still up to you to accept or decline an eventual job offer, and the interview is the time to pick up on hints of whether you’d like to work there.
When the interview is over, ask what the next steps are. This will show that you’re interested in the position. Also, always remember to follow up by sending a thank you letter to the interviewer. Ask for the business cards of each person who interviewed you, and then send a follow up thank you email the next day. Make sure each email is personalized based on the notes you took.
Focus on What You Can Control
First impressions are a powerful thing, and most of us aren’t even aware of how quickly we make them. According to body language expert Eliot Hoppe, in the first four seconds of meeting someone, you already decide if you like them, trust them, consider them safe, and figure out who they remind you of.
Hoppe told Workopolis that nearly every hiring manager sizes up candidates quickly, and they don’t even realize they’re doing it. If this makes you feel like you’ll be under a microscope during an interview, take a deep breath.
Smiling, using proper body posture, having a good handshake, and exuding a positive and energetic attitude are all things that turn the tide in your favor. Hiring managers form first impressions based on a variety of factors – so focus on the things you can control.
What you can control is how prepared you are for the interview, what you wear, and how you manage any anxiety. If you get the interview, the hiring manager has already been impressed by your resume and credentials. So, go into the interview with a positive mindset that you’d be a valuable addition to the company.
Empire Resume can help you land an interview for your dream job with our wide array of services, including professional resume writing services and cover letter writing or remaking your LinkedIn profile. Call us today at 801-690-4085 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.