Making a Great First Impression
Did you know that a first impression is made in the first seven seconds of meeting someone? Making a good first impression is critical in having a successful interview, but everything you do or say after those initial seven seconds will make your lasting impression. Not only is it important to prepare for the questions that will be asked during the interview, but you should also prepare in a few other ways to set yourself up for success.
How to Prepare Before your Interview:
Re-read (and save!) the job advertisement. When I apply for a job, I like to save a copy of the job advertisement by printing a copy to a PDF file and saving it in a folder. I’ve found this helpful to have on hand, as I may apply to 10-20 jobs at any given search time. When a recruiter calls, I can easily look back at these saved job ads to re-familiarize myself with the tasks and responsibilities prior to the interview. I use this information to also prepare follow-up questions and to ensure I understand the job responsibilities prior to the interview.
Practice your interview responses. I recommend first doing a quick Google search of the most commonly asked interview questions. Then, copy the questions into a new word document and make bullet points of your answers to use as talking points. These talking points will guide you through your responses while you practice. It is best not to write out full responses because trying to memorize small paragraphs can be difficult and lead to awkward situations if you get tripped up in your delivery. Practicing with a friend or recording yourself using your computer’s webcam can also help get your feedback about your delivery.
Research the company. As referenced in Do Your Homework [need link] on the Begin Within blog, it is critical to have basic knowledge about the company you are interviewing with. Doing research shows initiative and that you care about the position you are interviewing to fill. Conversely, it can be tough to overlook an interviewee who clearly did not even bother to take a look at the company’s website. When you research the company, you should look for basic information, such as the company’s mission statement, to get an overview of what they do. Then, look for any recent press releases the company may have shared on their website, as it never hurts know anything about positive news the company has made recently.
Bring examples of your work. If you work in an industry that you can bring samples of the work you have done previously, it is helpful to bring a portfolio with you. This is also important if you have done something similar to the responsibilities listed in the job advertisements, as you can bring examples of how you have completed these tasks in your previous roles.
Prepare thoughtful questions to ask at the end of the interview. It is common knowledge that at the end of the interview there is generally a time that the interviewer asks the interviewee if they have any questions. Always be sure to have at least two, thoughtful questions prepared in advance.
Examples of thoughtful questions:
- What are some of the qualities you believe would make someone successful in this role?
- What does a typical day in the life of a (insert job title) look like?
- What is a typical career path for someone in this role?
These types of questions may require a little bit of thought from the interviewee to come up with, but they are all relevant in any interview scenario.
Examples of questions to avoid:
- What salary would you be able to offer me for this position? While salary discussions are important, I recommend waiting to ask about salary until you get further into the interview process. You may be able to find a public salary range for the position if it is a government job or it could be included in the job advertisement. If you’re interviewing for a private company, take a look online at websites like Salary.com or GlassDoor.com to find salary ranges submitted by other websites users. This is helpful information to know so that when the time comes and you’ve had an offer extended to you, you are prepared to begin the negotiation process. Asking a question about salary during a brief phone screen or the first interview can make it seem like a candidate is only interested in money and not the role.
- How often can one work from home in this position? I always felt like I got this question the most from applicants who didn’t have a very successful interview overall. In my experience, this question wasn’t generally asked from people who gave off a high-performing, ambitious, or driven vibe during the interview.
- Are all employees subject to drug testing and if so, how frequently? I feel like this question should not be asked, for obvious reasons.
Plan your interview outfit in advance. At the very least, lay your planned interview outfit out the night before your interview. Check your correspondence with the recruiter, as they may have given a dress code guideline in your communication arranging the interview. If not, it’s a safe bet to wear a classic suit with a solid-colored shirt underneath.
Plan your route to get to the interview. You want to arrive at least 10-15 minutes in advance. If you arrive any earlier, wait in your car or in a nearby coffee shop because arriving any earlier may actually be viewed as a negative attribute. Consider driving by the interview location in advance to familiarize yourself with the area and the parking situation if you are able.
Tips for Interview Day:
Treat everyone you meet with respect and kindness. I recently read a post by a recruiter that a person cut them off in the company parking lot and yelled curse words out their window over a parking spot. After finding another parking spot, the recruiter walked into the office to meet with a candidate for an interview and it just so happened to be the not-so-friendly person from the parking lot. Needless to say, the individual didn’t get the job. Making a conscious effort to be polite on your drive in, holding the door for someone, or asking a receptionist how their morning is going can go a long way. In my opinion, it also helps set a positive tone for your interview.
Answer questions truthfully. The job search can be tough and at times you may feel desperate to say anything to land the job, but it’s important to answer all interview questions honestly. I think it’s better to maintain your integrity than to answer questions in a way you think the recruiter wants to hear in order to get the job. Being dishonest about your skills and abilities could lead to adverse employment actions during your employment or you may become unhappy if you weren’t truthful about your motivations for getting the job.
Be aware of your body language. During the interview, you want to use positive body language. Some examples of positive body language include sitting up straight with your shoulders back, leaning slightly into the conversation, making eye contact, and using natural hand gestures if you talk with your hands. You want to be mindful that if you do talk with your hands, that you don’t become so enthusiastic that they become distracting. You should also avoid crossing your arms, fully-reclining in your chair, or slouching – all of which are viewed as negative body language.
Don’t speak negatively about former employers. During the interview, you will likely be asked why you are looking for new employment or about former employers. This is not a time to share all of your grievances about your former boss or coworkers, rather keep it simple when sharing your reasons and focus on the positives of what the company you are interviewing with can bring to your career.
After the Interview.
Ask about next steps. If you think things went well at the end of the interview, you should ask about what to expect in terms of next steps in the interview process. This is helpful to know so you can track when you might be asked for any kind of follow-up interview or when a decision will be made. At times, recruiters may even use this question to begin scheduling a next-round interview with you.
Send a follow-up card or email. After the interview, you should send a follow-up card or email to the person (or people if there were multiple interviewers) thanking them for their time. You can also use this note to share your enthusiasm for the position you interviewed for and reiterate why you are the best candidate for the position.