Never underestimate the power of putting your best foot forward

Countless candidates make their way through job interviews every day and one thing remains consistent: the importance of a first impression. From the moment you walk into the interview room or join that all-important video call, your potential employer will be sizing you up, assessing everything from your outfit to your demeanour.

In this article, we'll explore the topic of first impressions in the context of job interviews, including what first impressions are and why they matter so much. How can you make a great first impression that sets you apart from other candidates? And if things don't quite go according to plan, how can you recover and still make a positive impact?Whether you're just starting out in your career or looking to take the next step, mastering the art of the first impression is a crucial part of the process. So buckle up and get ready to learn everything you need to know to make a lasting impact in your next job interview, as we take you on a journey from handshake to hired.

What is a first impression?

First impressions are the initial thoughts, feelings, and judgements that we form about someone when meeting them for the first time. It takes a quick glance, a nanosecond, to evaluate a person. Opinions are based on a range of factors, including appearance, body language, tone of voice, and behaviour. 

First impressions are not always accurate, but that doesn't mean they don't make a lasting impression. For example, if you were late for a job interview, the interviewer might believe you are a tardy person, even if the reason you were late was completely out of your control. 

You may have heard the expression “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and it's true. First impressions often set the tone for the relationship that follows and are near impossible to undo, so relationships and interactions will be much easier if you start off strong. 

Why do first impressions matter in a job interview?

An interviewer's first impression of you influences their perception of how suitable you are for the position. While interviewers are human and will make their usual first impressions as their native selves, they will also consider you through their professional lens. They know what a “good” and “bad” candidate is like based on their experience, and the signals they use to decipher that can be subtle.

In most interview processes there are several touchpoints. They may include an initial screening call over the phone, a video interview, and an in-person interview. In theory, there are several first impression opportunities, as you reveal a little more of your complete person as you move along the process. For example, first impressions from the initial phone call will be based on your voice and communication style, rather than your appearance.

As you can imagine, this has its advantages and disadvantages but, regardless, there is one constant throughout: first impressions matter, especially as an employer is getting to know you, so put your best foot forward at every interaction to create a lasting, positive impact.

That said, while first impressions are important, they aren't the only factor that interviewers consider when making a hiring decision. Your qualifications, experience, and performance during the interview are also critical. However, making a good first impression can help to set the tone for the rest of the interview and create a positive foundation for the rest of the hiring process.

How to make a good first impression in a job interview

Regardless of the stage you're at in the interview process, here are nine ways to make a great first impression at an interview. 

1. Be on time

Being on time for an interview is crucial for making a good first impression. Arriving late, whether that be late joining a call or arriving late at the venue, can suggest that you're disorganised, disrespectful of the interviewer's time, or disinterested in the position. 

What's more, being late can also create a stressful and rushed atmosphere for both you and the person interviewing you, which can negatively impact the overall interview experience. 

If your interview is over the phone, check that your phone is adequately charged and that you have a good signal. If your interview is via video call, ensure you're in a quiet, clean space with good WiFi. And if your interview is in person, plan your route ahead of time and account for potential delays. It's always best to arrive early and wait, than to arrive late and rush.

If unforeseen circumstances prevent you from arriving on time, contact the interviewer as soon as possible to explain the situation and apologise for the delay. This demonstrates that you take the interview seriously and value the interviewer's time.

2. Present yourself appropriately

Dressing appropriately is a critical part of creating a good first impression in an interview. The way that you present yourself through your appearance can say a lot about you as a candidate, so it's essential that you present yourself in a professional and polished manner.

When deciding what to wear for an interview, regardless of whether it's a video call or in-person, research the company dress code to get a sense of what's appropriate. This can help you to tailor your outfit and ensure that you're dressed in a way that aligns with the company culture and expectations. For example, if you know that remote working is common for the company, it's more likely that casual attire is acceptable. 

That said, if in doubt, it's always better to err on the side of dressing more formally, as this can help to demonstrate that you're taking the interview seriously and are committed to making a good impression. 

In addition to researching the company dress code, it's important to dress conservatively. This means avoiding anything too revealing or flashy and sticking to classic pieces such as suits, blouses, and smart trousers.

Pay attention to grooming as well, as this can be an important part of your overall appearance. Make sure that your hair is neat and tidy and avoid excessive makeup or jewellery, unless that style is in line with the company's dress code. 

3. Make eye contact

Making eye-contact during a job interview is an important non-verbal communication skill that can help to craft a strong first impression. Eye contact shows that you're engaged, interested, and confident. Plus, it can help to establish a connection with the interviewer. 

Maintaining eye contact during the interview also demonstrates that you're actively listening to the interviewer and paying attention to questions and comments. This in turn helps to convey a sense of trust and sincerity, which are highly desirable traits in a candidate. 

It's important to strike a balance of eye contact and not overdo it. Staring too intensely or for too long can make the interviewer feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, avoiding eye contact altogether can make you seem disinterested. 

If your interview is in person, these rules should make sense. But eye contact can be difficult to gauge if your interview is via video call. When speaking, look directly at the camera rather than the interviewer's face or your own, to give the appearance of eye contact. 

4. Use positive body language

Using open body language in an interview is key, regardless of whether you're on a video call or speaking in person, if you want to craft a positive first impression. Body language communicates a lot about your confidence, competence, and enthusiasm, which are traits that prospective employers value. Try leaning slightly forward or nodding occasionally to show you're engaged.

One powerful body language hack to be mindful of is sitting up straight with your shoulders back and chest forward. This posture conveys poise and self-assurance. It can also help you to breathe more easily and to project your voice more effectively. 

Smiling is another body language power move. A genuine smile creates a friendly and warming atmosphere which can put you and the interviewer at ease. 

Don't forget about hand gestures either. Using them appropriately to emphasise your points can make you appear more engaging and enthusiastic. But avoid excessive or distracting gestures. They can detract from your message and evoke a sense of chaos, which is not the vibe you should be aiming for. 

A firm handshake at the beginning and end of your in-person interview can also convey confidence and professionalism.

5. Use small talk

Small talk can be an effective way to create a comfortable atmosphere and establish rapport with the interviewer during a job interview. But small talk must be approached in a professional manner. 

When you prepare for your interview and research the company and the interviewer, keep in mind some points to use to initiate conversation. For example, did the company recently release financial results, or did the interviewer post something interesting on LinkedIn that you can mention?

Small talk in an interview is meant to be professional and casual. Keep the conversation focused on work-related topics or common interests that are appropriate for a job interview setting. Avoid anything controversial at all costs.

6. Communicate like a pro

Communication is a crucial element of making a great first impression during a job interview. It's not just about what you say, but also how you say it. Being engaging and responsive can help you to build rapport with the interviewer and make a positive impression.

Actively listening to the interviewer's questions and responding thoroughly is one way to be engaging during a job interview. Avoid interrupting or rushing to answer questions, as this can make you come across as disinterested or unprepared. Take the time to process the question and provide a thoughtful response that demonstrates your expertise and experience.

Try to be confident and assertive during a job interview. Speak clearly and with conviction - this can help you to come across as capable.

Don't forget to be personable and friendly during the interview either. Yes, it's important to maintain a professional demeanour, but being friendly and approachable can help to make the conversation more enjoyable. Don't be afraid to show your personality and sense of humour, as this can help you to build a connection with the interviewer.

7. Be yourself

While it's essential to present yourself professionally during a job interview, it's also important to be yourself and stay true to your personality and values. Being authentic can help you to click with the interviewer and make a lasting impression that goes beyond the superficial.

One way to be yourself during a job interview is to show enthusiasm and passion for the role and the company. If you believe in the mission and values of the company, let that show through in your energy. This can help to demonstrate that you're genuinely interested in the role and are a good fit for the company culture.

It's also important to be honest and transparent during the interview. Don't be afraid to talk about your weaknesses or areas for improvement, as this can demonstrate your self-awareness and willingness to learn and grow. By being honest and transparent, you can build trust with the interviewer and create a more genuine connection.

8. Be empathetic

Empathy is a superpower that can help you to forge genuine connections with anyone, especially in an interview. By showing empathy, you can demonstrate that you're not just after a job, but also interested in the people you'll be working with and the company culture.

So, how do you show empathy during a job interview? First, research the company's values and mission to show that you understand what they're all about. Second, ask questions about the interviewer's role and experience, and show that you're interested in them as a person. Third, be prepared to talk about how your skills and experience can help the company to overcome its challenges and achieve its goals.

But, let's not forget that empathy isn't just about being nice or sympathetic. It's also about being able to see things from others' perspectives. By showing that you can put yourself in others' shoes, you show that you're capable of building strong relationships with colleagues and can contribute to a positive and productive work environment. Just what the interviewer ordered.

9. Be courteous and attentive

When it comes to making a great and lasting first impression in a job interview, being courteous and assertive can go a long way. Courteous behaviour can demonstrate your respect for the interviewer and their time, while assertiveness can show that you're confident and capable of taking charge.

To start with, being courteous in a job interview means arriving on time and being prepared. It also means being polite and respectful throughout the interview process and thanking the interviewer for their time afterwards. Simple gestures such as making eye contact, smiling, and using the interviewer's name can also go a long way in demonstrating your courtesy.

At the same time, assertiveness is also important. This means being confident in your abilities and expressing your opinions and ideas clearly and effectively. Assertiveness can also be demonstrated by asking thoughtful questions about the company and the role, and showing that you've done your research and are prepared to take on challenges.

It's worth noting that there's a fine line between being assertive and being pushy or aggressive. Strike the right balance to avoid coming across as arrogant or overbearing. One way to do this is by framing your assertiveness in a positive and constructive way, showing that you're eager to contribute and help the company succeed.

How to recover from making a bad first impression

If you feel like you made a bad first impression in a job interview, don't despair. There are things you can do to try to recover and make a better impression:

Acknowledge the situation: If you feel like you made a mistake, don't try to brush it under the rug. Acknowledge the situation and address it directly. For example, you could say something like, "I realise that I didn't come across as confidently as I would have liked. I'd like to take a moment to expand on my experience in that area."

Stay positive: Don't let a bad first impression derail your entire interview. Stay positive, focused, and engaged. Show that you're excited about the opportunity and that you're eager to learn more about the company and the role.

Focus on your strengths: If you feel like you stumbled in one area, try to shift the conversation to your strengths. Highlight your achievements, relevant experience, and other qualities that make you a strong candidate for the role.

Be honest: If you feel like you made a mistake or provided incorrect information, don't try to cover it up. Be honest and transparent. Admit your mistake and offer a correction or clarification.

Follow up: After the interview, send a thank-you note or email to the interviewer. Use this opportunity to reiterate your interest in the role and to address any concerns you may have about your performance in the interview.

Remember, everyone makes mistakes. What's important is how you respond to those mistakes. By staying positive, focused, and engaged, and by addressing any concerns head-on, you can still make a strong impression in a job interview - even if your first impression wasn't ideal.

There's no denying the importance of first impressions. And when the stakes are high, like in a job interview, you can't afford to make mistakes. If you feel prepared to take the interview plunge, but don't have an opportunity lined up, enlist the help of our professional CV writing service to help you to land more interviews and get hired faster.

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