Regardless of the job, industry, or level of education, making a great first impression at a job interview is crucial. Within the first few seconds of meeting you, the interviewer will have formed a perception about you based on your demeanor, presentation, and a few subtle cues. Here are ten ways to ensure that the first impression you create is a positive one.
1. Punctuality Speaks Volumes
Punctuality is important. A good rule of thumb is to arrive 10-15 minutes prior to your scheduled interview time. It shows that you respect the interviewer’s time and that you’re serious about the position. Alternatively, arriving late also tells prospective employers quite a bit about your work ethic.
When you arrive, politely let the receptionist know you’ve arrived a few minutes early. You’ll likely be directed to a seat where you will wait for your interviewer. An added benefit of arriving early is the few extra minutes you have to prepare. You may mentally review talking points or simply spend five minutes in quiet meditation to ease your nerves.
2. Dress Appropriately for the Role
You don’t need a high-end wardrobe to impress. Whether it’s a blue-collar job or a corporate position, ensure your outfit is neat, tidy, and appropriate for the company’s culture. This may require some research beforehand.
Get a sense of the company’s dress code by looking at the website’s About Us page. Employee bios often include headshots that may offer hints at the appropriate dress style. For companies that embrace a more casual culture, be sure to dress professionally. Being slightly overdressed is rarely an issue, but being underdressed can communicate that you don’t take the role seriously.
3. Mind Your Body Language
Nonverbal communication can have a profound impact on a job interview – and can often communicate more than verbal communication. Your cover letter and resume have done the heavy lifting to get you in the interviewee seat. Now, it’s time to use positive body language to help solidify you as a strong candidate.
Offer a firm handshake, good eye contact, and a genuine smile to your interviewer and anyone else with whom you interact. It’s often helpful to practice these nonverbal cues with a friend or in front of a mirror beforehand.
Try to avoid fidgeting and slouching when seated, and aim to communicate strength, confidence, and authenticity. Interviews can be high-stress situations, but if you can remain poised and sure of yourself, it will go a long way in communicating that you’re a good fit for the role.
4. Come Prepared
Do your due diligence when it comes to the role, the company, and the industry. This may include research to educate yourself on potential challenges and solutions that someone in the role may face. Think about how you’d handle different scenarios and why your unique skill set is a good fit.
Practice answering standard questions beforehand and prepare some questions to ask the interviewer to highlight your earnestness.
5. Listen as Much as You Speak
Listening is just as important as speaking at an interview. It’s also critical to listen to ensure you answer the interviewer’s questions appropriately and thoroughly.
Tie in nonverbal communication like head nods to show you actively listening. It can also be helpful to repeat the interviewer’s questions back before answering to show that you are engaged. This can also buy you some time to consider your answer.
6. Limit the Use of Fillers
We’re all guilty of sprinkling conversation with “um”, “like”, or “you know.” In an interview setting, this can be distracting. Pause and breathe before answering and take your time speaking. This can cut down on unnecessary filler words and convey thoughtfulness.
Preparing for the interview before you go should help to cut down on filler words. Ask a friend to conduct a mock interview and record the practice session. Notice how often and when you tend to use fillers to improve communication.
7. Showcase Your Soft Skills
Qualities like teamwork, adaptability, and problem-solving are universally valued. Don’t forget to emphasize these along with your hard skills via anecdotes or experiences that highlight these attributes.
One or two of the interviewer’s questions will likely aim to explore your soft skills, so have examples on hand. Think of a time when you excelled at teamwork or when you had to communicate clearly in a high-stress or otherwise difficult situation.
8. Be Authentic
Authenticity is critical when interviewing for a position. Of course, you want to present the best version of yourself, but it’s equally important to be genuine.
Be honest about your experiences and admit when you don’t know something. This goes a long way in earning respect from prospective employers.
9. Express Gratitude
A simple ‘thank you’ can make you stand out during the interview process. Start by thanking the prospective employer at the start of the interview for the opportunity. Thank the person again for their time at the end of the interview.
Gratitude highlights positivity and good manners. You may also consider writing a thank you note or email to send after the interview. In addition to being polite, it offers another way to stay top of mind with the company.
10. Follow-Up After the Interview
A follow-up email, expressing gratitude and reinforcing your interest in the role, can be a polite nudge and a reminder of your discussion. Interviewers are people too and often get busy and bogged down in the day-to-day responsibilities of their role.
A follow-up note shows you have a high level of interest in the position and can leave a lasting impression about who you are as a person.
Each interview will be unique, but preparing with the tips above in mind can elevate your skills in nearly every circumstance. Prepare, but be flexible enough to adapt as each situation warrants.
Remember, the interviewer believes you are qualified for the role because they asked you to be there. Take a deep breath, be confident in your skills, and keep a positive mindset. Your next big opportunity could be one interview away.