There’s a great deal of advice available about how to get your job application right. This is certainly understandable, as it’s a vital component of getting your foot in the door. But it’s far from the only important aspect of the hiring process. Once you’ve gotten past the applicant tracking system (ATS) and demonstrated you have the right skills, you then have to ace the interview. This is often the most challenging part.
The interview is also the first real chance a potential employer has to get to know you personally. It’s not just about representing your abilities and education, but highlighting the unique package you can bring to the organization. While the entirety of the interview is important, it’s worth considering that even the initial introduction matters. The first impressions you make in a range of areas can significantly sway the interviewer’s opinions on your suitability for the role and their company culture.
So, how can you make an awesome first impression during an interview? Let’s review a handful of the key areas you need to focus on.
Wear Professional Attire
One of the mistakes it can be easy to make when it comes to making a good first impression in an interview is wearing inappropriate attire. There’s certainly an argument to be made that appearances shouldn’t make a difference to your hiring prospects.
Nevertheless, the clothing you choose for your first meeting with an employer still communicates a lot. Firstly, it shows your attitude to the opportunity. If you’ve taken the time to look professional, it communicates that you care about the impression you make. It’s also a sign of respect; you’ve chosen to present your best self to the interviewer.
Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that not all expectations for interview attire are the same. If you wear a suit to an interview with businesses with a more relaxed approach to operations, they may not consider you a good fit for their company culture.
Therefore, you should take some time to research the company a little. Look at what image they put across on their website. Read workplace reviews from current staff. This can give you insights into their preferences.
When in doubt, though, work along the lines of business casual. Though the term can be quite ambiguous, business casual usually revolves around a look that is less formal while still appearing professional. Consider chinos rather than dress pants or jeans. A cool blazer worn with a button-down shirt is also great here, but feel free to forgo a tie.
The next key element of making the first impression is to project confidence. You may well be nervous, which is perfectly natural. Nevertheless, if your interviewer sees you have a confident manner, this helps to build their confidence in you. They get the impression you can be proactive in making decisions and can even sow the early seeds of trust.
The best way to exude confidence in your first impression is usually through the use of body language. These non-verbal cues not just support the words you’re saying but also communicate attitudes independently. Maintain good posture both when standing and sitting down, as this projects an image of someone who is comfortable in their surroundings. Maintain good eye contact throughout the interview.
This doesn’t mean stare, though. Utilize the 50/70 rule, in which you aim to keep eye contact 50% of the time while speaking and 70% while listening.
This raises the importance of avoiding body language that not only doesn’t show confidence but can also give the wrong impression. You don’t want to appear arrogant or behave inappropriately.
For instance, winking might seem like a friendly gesture but it has various other connotations. In some cases, it may come across as flirty, which is not the right attitude to the situation. There are also cultural connotations to winking that may make it seem disrespectful or vulgar. So, be mindful of what you’re doing with your body language and stick to purely professional and confident behavior.
Lateness for a job interview never sends a good first impression. This is not a party and there’s no such thing as fashionably late in business. Aside from anything else, the failure to be punctual seems disrespectful, particularly as the interviewer has taken valuable time out of their day to meet with you. It is, therefore, vital to be on time.
Wherever possible, clear your schedule for the day. If you’re currently employed, see if you can arrange to take the day off or swap your shift with a coworker. This not only ensures you have the ability to be on time but you’ll find you’re less hurried and stressed.
If it helps, create a schedule for the day leading up to the interview. Establish periods of time for getting ready and for putting together any resources you need. Remember to plan to eat a meal beforehand so you’re not flagging on arrival. Make certain you leave for the interview with plenty of time to account for potential issues like traffic or public transport delays.
There will be some circumstances in which lateness can’t be helped. Interviewers will certainly understand this. However, be sure not to just show up late. When it looks as though lateness is a possibility, call the company and if possible speak to the interviewer. Express your apologies and set their expectations for your time of arrival. This shows you to be a considerate person and that you have appropriate and practical reactions to unexpected situations.
Answer Initial Questions Effectively
Your responses to the initial questions you’re asked can set the tone for the entire interview. Those first queries can certainly be nerve-wracking, particularly if the role represents a significant career step. Nevertheless, interviewers will gain insights into your conversational style and your approach to addressing the ideas they want to explore. So, it’s worth preparing to put yourself into a position in which you’re able to answer clearly and effectively.
The initial questions are likely to be open in nature. You’ll usually find this revolves around a personal introduction. These types of questions can be the most difficult to navigate. You don’t want to ramble at length and go off on tangents. At the same time, getting tongue-tied or stumped for a response can look bad. So, practice a range of responses to open questions beforehand. Don’t script them, necessarily. Rather, get used to talking about common opening subjects in a relaxed but assertive manner.
The main subjects that usually crop up in the first questions include the following:
- Tell me about yourself
- What interested you about the position?
- Why do you want to work with us?
- What do you feel you have to offer the company?
Arrange Your Surroundings
Interviews are increasingly conducted remotely. In some cases, this will be the full interview. In others, it will be an initial screening video chat. In either case, you’ll find that the first impression you make isn’t based purely on your personal actions and appearance. You’ll also deliver a distinct non-verbal communication with your surroundings.
Firstly, make sure all the areas in your immediate vicinity are clear of clutter. No matter what position you’re applying for, you don’t want to appear messy and disorganized. Even if there are items not visible on your camera, clear them up. You’ll find this helps you to feel more confident and organized.
Wherever possible, aim for a neutral background. Nevertheless, having a few items around you that represent your personality can make for positive talking points. This may help you and the interviewer feel more at ease with one another.
It’s important not to just focus on physical items, here. The lighting you choose for your virtual interview can make a significant impact. Low lighting can make your surroundings look dingy and your interviewer may also find it difficult to read your expressions.
Try to arrange to hold your interview in an area of your home with good natural light. Open the curtains or blinds and let the daylight provide a clear and positive atmosphere.
It’s worth considering how your first impression can begin even before you arrive at the interview. When you show up to an interview ill-prepared, this sends a message that you don’t care about the company or the role. Take as much time as you can to ensure your readiness.
Print out copies of your resume and bring them along to the interview along with any physical copies of certifications. If you have a portfolio of relevant projects, ensure each example is laid out in an ordered and easily navigable fashion. It may not be necessary to have this during the interview, but it’s better to be able to offer them should the need arise.
It’s also helpful to prepare yourself with some information about the company itself. There are likely to be questions surrounding what you know about the business. Do a little digging on their websites, social media channels, and any news articles. In particular, look at what’s important to the business and its company culture.
This can give you some good points of reference that show you’ve been paying attention. In addition, come prepared with good questions to ask the interviewer – this will prove that you’re invested not only in the job, but the company itself.
In the weeks prior to the interview, you may find it wise to also manage your internet identity. It’s not unusual for potential employers to look at candidates’ social media profiles and even ask questions about them. Review your platforms to make sure they support the image you want to present.
An interview is often your first and best chance to make a positive connection with a potential employer. As such, it’s important to take steps to enhance your first impression. This should include dressing professionally and utilizing confident body language.
Remember that remote interviews will require you to manage your surroundings as well as your appearance and behavior. Good preparation is a key to success. So, put in the time and energy to make sure your initial meeting is the best it can be.