Interview advice: How to make a great first impression

According to Undercover Recruiter, 33% of bosses know within the first 90 seconds whether they will hire the interviewee or not. That means first impressions really do count – but how do you make sure you make a positive impact straight away on a potential employer?

Over the years we have interviewed many, many different candidates and in that time we have all learnt what makes a good first impression – so here’s our top four tips…

1. Preparation makes perfect

It’s obvious when a candidate has put in the effort to do some basic research – and it makes a great impression.

When going for an interview you want to make sure you are prepared for almost anything. Some things may surprise you but you must have the basics down.

To help you get there, make sure you have researched the company before your interview. Research competitors, the company’s values and the person who is interviewing you as starting points. Knowing the fundamentals is key to displaying your keen and knowledgeable self to the employer.

Also prepare by taking some time to think about your strengths and weaknesses too: being able to identify weaknesses means, in the future, you will be able to turn this into a strength. It’s a sample of your willingness to improve and interviewers will often ask you to explain what your main weaknesses are.

Make sure you also know how you are travelling to your interview: this can reduce the risk of traffic or any form of lateness. Double and triple check where you are going and the time of your interview.

It may also sound like a simple point but try to get a good night’s sleep before your interview too. Sleep is essential to your own wellbeing and helps to ensure you are performing to your highest standard. A good breakfast and breathing exercises can calm nerves too.

In addition it’s advisable to bring water and a pen and pad, so you may take notes. Any certificates or achievements that you have may also be needed at the interview, along with your passport or driving licence. Remember that some employers may specify both – so have a check! Your recruiter can always help with making sure you have all the necessary documents with you, and it may be that they handle your identification on behalf of the employer – so make sure you know this in advance.

2. Always be on time

Your punctuality can often be the first, significant impression you make at a face-to-face interview.

You can be early but try to make it only by ten minutes or so – any earlier and it may cause some unsettling pressure on both you and the interviewer. Your potential employer may feel obliged to rush to meet you: remember, they are also trying to impress you as well.

If you are early familiarise yourself with the area you are in so you are confident in where you have to go. Don’t go walking around though!

Whether you’re in a reception area or waiting in the interview room, stay where you are instructed to go – and take the opportunity to give yourself a motivational pep talk (in your head!): tell yourself the interview will go great and take a moment to revisit some key points you want to address.

Being on time sets a scene and lets your future boss know whether or not they can rely on you to show up.

3. Dress to impress

Right and wrong attire can change the entire course of your interview. The clothes that you decide to wear could say a lot about your attitude, professionalism and eagerness to secure the role.

Play it safe: business dress is usually appropriate but ask your recruiter what dress code you should adopt too – they will know their client and be able to give you some advice.

Dressing professionally is not only about making a good impression though, it can have a positive effect on your confidence in an interview too.

4. Be conscious of your body language

Never cross your arms. Never slouch. You may think that these are not going to affect your chances of getting a job, but they may. Crossing your arms creates an unsettling tone, as if you are being defensive and resistant. Slouching can seem laid back and make you appear disengaged. If in doubt, sit up right and have your hands on the table in front of you.

By altering your body language you can come across as more open and attentive to the interview at hand, projecting a positive vibe to the interviewer.

Make sure you feel comfortable in your clothes too: if something is a bit tight or restrictive it can come across in your body language and make you feel uncomfortable in yourself.

During the interview, engage with the hiring manager. Giving a verbal or physical response, like a nod or smile, shows you are coherent and understanding; no blank faces or stares! Equally, make sure you interact and ask questions – this will show you are eager to learn more and are engaged with the company. In fact, there are a few key questions you can ask in an interview which not only helps you to make an informed decision but will also show an employer you are naturally inquisitive. Our recent blog, Questions you should be asking in an interview, explains this further.

All in all, when you attend an interview remember to dress professionally, do your research, sit up straight and never be late. If you need any more help before your interview have a look through some more of our blogs or visit our resource centre, which is packed with advice to help you make a great first impression.

About the Author

Emma Plummer

Emma Plummer

Recruitment Partner

Emma blogs for the ACR jobseekers’ blog covering tips on how to stand out, managing the job-hunting process and more.