Preparing for an Interview: Nail that first impression

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how to impress in an interview

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. The first impression you make could be a great chance to really wow the hiring manager. So let’s discuss how you might do your best to make a good first impression and nail the interview.

How to Impress in an Interview: Every Second Matters

How long does it take for someone to make a first impression? Not long! Early research suggested it could take as little as 7 seconds. A more recent study claims that the average person forms a first impression in 27 seconds, and that about one in three people usually make a first impression in 10 seconds or less. Either way, you don’t have much time to make a first impression, so use your time wisely!

Some initial evaluations of a person 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.

Unfortunately, initial perceptions are frequently enduring, even though they may not always accurately represent an individual. The resilience of these first impressions might be attributed to the concept of confirmation bias. In general, people have a tendency to avoid seeking information that contradicts their initial judgments. Confirmation bias, a cognitive predisposition, drives the human brain to overlook any indications that challenge the initial impression of someone and instead, it directs its attention toward reinforcing the correctness of that first judgment.

how to impress in an interview

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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. Maintain eye contact when the interviewer asks you a question or is giving you information. 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 possible.

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 tie your questions to your own professional experience.

Don’t slouch! Sitting up straight could be a sign of being engaged with who you’re speaking with—it says, “I can get the job done!” On the flip side, slumped shoulders may indicate a lack of confidence or seriousness about the job.

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. See below to learn about body language dos and don’ts.

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 could 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 could pay attention to whether you’re being too fidgety or not maintaining eye contact. Then you could 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. When considering how to do well in an interview, be conscious of your body language as well as the body language of your interviewer.

  • Arms crossed: Try to avoid crossing your arms, as this could 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 are able to 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. Or, if you’re not talking, don’t interrupt. This is typically an indication that they want to say something without being interrupted!
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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 media 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, or at least clean them up. You may find a photo to be harmless—but hiring managers may not feel the same 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)—you want your email address to sound professional.
  • 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 that stand out too much.
  • 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 that relate what you learned during the interview. Following are some sample questions you might ask:
  1. What are your expectations for me in this role?
  2. How does this role contribute to the success of the team or company?
  3. What are some of the challenges I might encounter?
  4. How long have you been working here?
  5. What’s the best part for you of being part of this company?
  6. What are the core values of the company?
  7. Are there training opportunities in that might help me grow professionally?
  8. What are the next steps in the hiring process?
  • There are also questions that you should avoid —in particular, those that don’t reflect your interest in the work, your role, and the company. Here are a few examples of what not to ask:
  1. What’s the starting salary?
  2. Can you tell me about your health insurance?
  3. What are your vacation and paid leave policies?
  4. Do you conduct background checks?
  • 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!
  • 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!

The guidelines above could also apply to a graduate school interview , although the questions you might ask might be somewhat different.


In a nutshell, nailing that first impression could be like winning half the battle; it might serve as the foundation upon which lasting perceptions are built. So, make it count, and let your impressive self shine through from the get-go!

Discover even more fascinating and related content to dive into!

10 Common Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

How to Prepare for Grad School Interview

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