There’s a lot to be anxious about when you’re going on an interview: am I qualified? Will they like me? Have I prepared for the most common interview questions? What about uncommon interview questions? While there are dozens of ways to try to prepare for an interview, there are a few easy ways you can immediately make a good first impression, leading to a hopefully stellar job interview.
The tips are based on the dozens of interviews I’ve attended as an interview panel member for various different jobs in my company. There are just some people who make such a good first impression, their whole interview is off to a good start. And the best part? There’s nothing “special” about them – anyone can make a good first impression at an interview if they follow these tips!
As the saying goes, if you’re 15 minutes early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. While there’s typically no reason to get to a job interview earlier than 15 minutes, you do need to be there before the actual interview time itself.
Why would interviewers schedule you for a 9 a.m. interview but actually want you there at 8:45 a.m.? While some interviewers will ask you to arrive “a few minutes early”, some won’t, and that’s because they’re just doing the interview. Someone else (usually a secretary) will be the one behind the scenes, collecting your paperwork, asking you to fill out additional paperwork, and/or validating your parking.
These type of administrative reasons are why you’ll want to arrive early. Also, being there early and not making the interview panel wait for your arrival is key to making a good first impression.
There is no reason you need to go to the fanciest suit place in town to make a good first impression at an interview – an outlet store or what you currently have in your closet will likely be fine, but there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Style: dress pretty conservatively, especially if you’re in professions like law, government, banking, etc. Marketing, sports and communications may be a little more casual, but it’s always smart to err on the side of looking professional than not
- Fit: make sure your suit or skirt-suit fits you. That means it’s not too baggy, with your sleeves overtaking your hands, or that it’s too tight and puckers when you try to button your jacket. If you have any concerns, ask a friend! When you get the job, you can take them out for coffee.
- Color: I generally recommend people buy suits or skirt-suits together, not mix and match. This way you know your black suit is really the same shade of black and not “night black” and “charcoal black.” There’s a difference, and some people may notice.
None of these recommendations are because what you’re wearing matters to the interview panel. No sane person on the panel is asking “is that J.Crew or Ralph Lauren?” Basically, the good impression you’re trying to make is nondescript in clothing choices. You don’t want to be remembered for what you wore, you want to be remembered for what you said and your qualifications. Don’t let your clothing distract from your message.
Bring Copies of Your Resume & a Writing Sample
Even though the interview panel likely has a copy of your resume, bring one anyway. I’ve been on some interview panels where the lead didn’t give us copies of people’s resumes, and I really wished I could look through it after the person left. It always looks professional to bring a resume “just in case.” Plus, if the panel is waiting on the next interviewee to arrive, it will give them more chances to look thoroughly at your resume.
As far as your writing sample, only bring it if you’re a strong writer or they ask for a writing sample. Nowadays, the majority of companies are looking for people who can communicate. It’s hard to find good writers whose work doesn’t need editing, and if you’re a strong writer (i.e. other people have told you you’re a good writer or you received good feedback in college), this will be a selling point.
Don’t smile like the Joker, but do remember to smile! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on an interview where people were too nervous to smile, and it was awkward. I know you’re nervous. I’m nervous for you and, most of the time, the people interviewing you are nervous for you. You’ve made it to the interview round because you’re awesome – don’t freeze up and let your nerves do the talking.
If you’re not a natural smiler, practice before the interview. Practice casually smiling with friends, your spouse, your pets. People will give you feedback, pets will look away (if you’re too creepy). If you’re not a natural smiley person, don’t force yourself into it during the interview. Simply give a casual smile when you walk into the room, when you shake hands, and when you exit. Only 3 times is necessary to give a good impression at an interview!
I hope these tips make you a little less nervous on your next interview. As you can see, there’s nothing here that’s really special. You can be tall and good-looking, but if you don’t smile, your suit is mismatched, or you arrive late, you’re not off on the best foot. What we’re trying to do is make a good first impression at an interview so you’re on your best foot possible. Let your credentials do the talking and you’re on your way to a solid job interview!
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What recommendations do you have for someone looking to make a good first impression at an interview?
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