Preparing for an interview: Nail that first impression

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Preparing for an interview

Let's take a look on how to prepare for an interview and really nail that first impression.

When you’re preparing for an interview, you may be a little anxious and scrambling to research how to interview well. The first impression is your one chance you get to really wow the hiring manager. So let’s discuss how to do your best to nail it.

So you got the call to go in for an interview—congrats! The human resources person or hiring manager found something about your resume that sparked their interest. Now you’ve got to make a great first impression and communicate that you are able to do the job. Let’s look at how quickly a first impression can take shape.

How to Impress in an Interview: Every Second Matters

How long does it take for someone to start evaluating you? Turns out that according to the Association for Psychological Science, it only takes 1/10th of a second to judge if a person is attractive. And while good looks don’t necessarily factor into getting a job, it shows you how quickly someone starts to assess another person. Beyond attraction, a first impression can take a little as 7 seconds to form—reports a study conducted by Dr. Michael Solomon of New York University. What can be judged in those 7 seconds? A lot, it turns out. Whether someone is right or wrong about these things, those first 7 seconds are spent to evaluate your:

  • Education Level
  • Economic Level
  • Sophistication
  • Trustworthiness
  • Credibility
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Ethnic Background
  • Political Background
  • Values
  • Social Desirability
  • Level of Success

Some of these things are based on stereotype, while some are more about how you carry yourself. Your handshake may reveal whether you’re confident or not—which may be an indicator of your level of success and sense of capability. Maintaining eye contact while you shake hands with the interviewer may give the impression that you are trustworthy and credible. There are some judgements someone will make about you that you have no control over. But since 1/3 of hiring managers know whether they’d hire you just 90 seconds after meeting you (according to a survey reported on by Business 2 Community), there are some measure you can take to improve your chances of making a good impression in an interview.

Interview DOs and DON’Ts

Do smile. An inviting facial expression, topped off with a smile, is the age-old signal that you are friendly and happy. In an interview, a smile signals that you’re glad to be there and are excited to find out all about the position they’re trying to fill.

Don’t avoid eye contact. Maintaining eye contact when the interviewer is asking you a question or giving you information is crucial. In fact, 67% of managers turned down candidates for their failure to make eye contact. You don’t have to be creepy about it. It’s okay to look away while you’re forming answers to questions. But make eye contact as much as you can.

Do think carefully about what you say. Before you go into the interview, do some research on commonly asked interview questions. And always go in with some questions that are specific to the specific job. Bonus points if you can tie your questions to your own professional experience.

Don’t slouch! Sitting up straight is a sign of being engaged with who you’re speaking with. On the flip side, slumped shoulders may indicate a lack of confidence or seriousness about the job. Since 38% of managers say that bad posture can put you out of the running, be sure your posture says, “I can get the job done!”

Do think about your tone and body language. It goes without saying that you want to come across as intelligent and articulate. But sometimes body language says more than our words do. A communication manual from the National Democratic Institute noted that 38% of a first impression is made from your voice, intonation, and body language (more on that later).

Don’t dress too trendy or casually. You may have an outfit you want to wear on your interview because it makes you feel really confident. But keep in mind that a hiring manager wants to see that you can be professional, even if the company where you’re interviewing has a casual dress code. Strike a balance between showing a small glimpse of your personality while still appearing businesslike and professional.

It seems like a lot to remember while you also have to worry about answering the questions the interviewer asks you. That’s why practicing the interview with a friend may help these DOs and DON’Ts to become second nature to you. A friend can pay attention to whether you’re being too fidgety or not maintaining eye contact. Then you can be sure to not make mistakes like that in the interview.

Body Language in an Interview—and How to Read It

The human mind has very interesting ways to say what we’re thinking without saying one word. Sometimes when we’re afraid, defensive, interested, or attracted, our hand motions or the way we stand says it all. In a casual conversation, people communicate these feelings subconsciously. Whether you are aware of it or not, we respond to the body language another person uses. But when considering how to do well in an interview, you can be conscious of your body language as well as read the interviewer’s language.

  • Arms crossed: Try to avoid crossing your arms, as this can be a sign of being defensive or closed-minded. If you don’t know what to do with your hands, keep one on top of the other on your lap. Or better yet, remember that notebook with your questions about the job that you should have? Keep a pen in your hand, resting on the notebook, ready to take notes.
  • Fingertips touching in a triangle: So the hiring manager mentions a task that you have been doing for years and are an expert at. You may feel confident you can do it, but don’t come across as arrogant—which is how fingertips touching in a triangle may appear.
  • Hand to cheek: While it may be good to try to avoid touching your face at all, touching your hand or fingers to your cheek typically means you are interested and attentive to what the person is saying to you.
  • Palm down: If the hiring manager indicates downward with their palm, stop whatever you’re saying. O if you’re not talking, don’t interrupt. This is an indication that they want to say something without being interrupted!

Clean Up Your Online Reputation

Before you’re even able to make a first impression in person, your resume, cover letter, and online reputation will speak for you. If a company is interested in seeing you for an interview, they may search for your social profiles to see how you conduct yourself on a public, social platform. Be sure to go through your social media profiles and settings to make them private, not public—since a whopping 93% of recruiters check social media profiles prior to interview! You may find a photo to be harmless—but hiring managers may not feel the same way! And make sure any profile image (that can be viewed by anyone who doesn’t follow you) isn’t offensive or inappropriate in any way.

Tips for How to Interview Well

Here are some stats and tips for interviews that may make all the difference when it comes down to you and another job candidate!

  • Make an email address that’s just your name (add numbers if your name is taken). 76% of resumes are ruled out for having an unprofessional/inappropriate email address.
  • Make sure the font in your resume is typical and readable. Don’t use a weird font that makes your resume hard to read or too stand-out (like the font Mistral).
  • Every good interviewer will ask if you have any questions and you should always have some. If they answer your prepared questions when they explain the job, you should formulate a couple questions on the spot. Those who ask questions are 51% more likely to be hired (according to Trend Hunter - Business)!
  • Have a couple options of clothes on deck. You don’t want to put on your interview outfit just to notice a belt loop is ripped! According to a study cited in Northeastern University’s career blog, 65% of bosses said looks (like clothing and hygiene) make a difference… so don’t look sloppy!
  • Whether you are still at your last job or were laid off, don’t badmouth your last employer. This hiring manager will assume you’ll do the same about their company. And it doesn’t make anyone look good. Spin any negatives (even being laid off) into a positive, knowledge-gaining experience!