First Impressions

First impressions are crucial for anyone seeking a new job. Many employers make their mind up about a candidate in the first five minutes. No matter how qualified you may be for a position, it’s important that your initial impact makes your potential employer want to learn more. You can take steps before, during and after the interview to ensure you present yourself in the best light possible.

Before the Interview

  • Do your homework. Study up on the position and the company and be prepared to speak intelligently about the organization’s mission and the role you’ll play in it. Practice answering interview questions in a way that highlights your qualifications and shows that you are suited to the position.

  • Dress your best. If you aren’t sure what’s expected, call the office’s front desk and ask about the dress code. Then wear something slightly better. Make sure your clothes, hair and nails are clean and well kempt. An interviewer’s first impressions of you begin with the way you look.

  • Be prepared. Bring extra copies of your resume. You probably turned one in with your application, but having extras shows that you have planned ahead. It’s also helpful to have a copy for yourself in case you need to refer to it during the interview process.

  • Be on time. In fact, be early. Punctuality tells a potential employer that you respect his or her time and that you take the interview seriously. Plan plenty of time to arrive at the interview, factoring in possible traffic problems and other unexpected delays. Take a few minutes to use the restroom, check your appearance and focus so you can enter the interview calm, collected and confident.

    During the Interview

  • Be enthusiastic. First impressions begin the minute you walk in the door. Smile when you enter the room, look the interviewer in the eye and greet him or her with a firm handshake. When answering questions, make it clear that you look forward to applying your skills to the position and to the opportunity for growth it provides. Ask questions that make it clear you have researched the company and are eager to be a part of it.

  • Sound confident. Many people feel awkward talking about themselves, but this is no time to be modest. Practice verbalizing your past achievement and contributions in specific, measurable terms. You don’t want to be overbearing, but project your voice just a bit more than you would for a normalconversation. Your tone should be assertive and your enunciation clear, and your sentences should be free of distracting fillers like um, like and you know.

  • Look confident. Nonverbal communication contributes a good deal to first impressions. It is important that your body language conveys confidence and enthusiasm throughout the interview process. Sit up straight and keep your posture alert. Make frequent eye contact. Don’t let your hand gestures become distracting. Avoid nervous tics like fidgeting, jiggling your foot, tapping your pen, or playing with your hair.

  • Mirror your interviewer. You don’t want to come across as false, but mirroring your interviewer’s posture and conversational tone can establish a rapport with them. If your interviewer’s tone is formal, keep your responses formal as well. If he or she is more casual, it’s ok for you to be casual, too. Try to mimic their pace as well, whether they are a fast-talker or more sedate.

    After the Interview

  • First impressions are still being made when the interview is complete. Make eye contact once again, shake hands with your interviewer and thank them for their time. Ask if they need any additional information and tell them that you look forward to hearing from them.

  • Send a thank-you. Consider the company’s culture when deciding whether to send an email or a hand-written note. Whichever you choose, your message should not be generic, but should reference specifics from the interview and may even provide additional information. You might also consider sending a thank-you to other staff members who assisted you in any way.

    While good first impressions can’t make up for a lack of qualification, they are an important step in attracting a potential employer’s interest. With adequate preparation before the interview, confidence and enthusiasm during the interview and a show of gratitude after the interview you can set yourself apart from other candidates and be confident that you have put your best foot forward.

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