A Practical Guide to Making a Good First Impression at Your Job Interview

resume header image

Improve Your Resume or CV

Job interviews are all about making a good first impression in a short amount of time. You have an extremely limited window of opportunity to convince an employer to take a chance on you, and you’re competing against lots of other qualified candidates who want the job just as much. Therefore, you need more than great skills and experience to bag that employment contract—you also need to ace the interview.

Whether you’re sitting down in an office or interviewing via a video call, you should be punctual (which means early), polite, and positive. The mere minutes you’re scheduled for could be your only chance to convince a potential employer that you’re the perfect candidate for the job, which is why you have to make this limited time count and also why job interviews can be so daunting. 

It can feel unnerving to tell a complete stranger all about your goals, dreams, strengths, and weaknesses, especially when a new job hangs in the balance—even veteran professionals don’t find this an agreeable experience. However, this isn’t the time to doubt yourself, so rather than letting your nerves get in the way, focus on preparation. Even if you don’t feel particularly sure of yourself, ample preparation will help you face this intimidating but crucial event with confidence.

Remember: Confidence is the key to making a good first impression, and preparation is the key to confidence. If you’re prepared, you’ll be more focused and calmer, making it easier to answer hard questions thoughtfully rather than scramble to explain why you quit your last job or how you did in your first job. If you’re nervous, your mind may even stumble on easy questions that you could have answered in a heartbeat had a friend asked them. That’s why practice is so crucial, whatever job you’re applying for.

If the mere thought of answering these questions makes your palms sweat, set up a mock interview with one of our experts, who will give you constructive feedback and help you gain the confidence you need to ace your job interview. 

Let’s now examine some of the ways you can make a good first impression at a job interview.

Do your research

Doing your due diligence on the company you’ll be interviewing for is imperative if you want to make a good first impression. If you show up with hardly any knowledge about the employer, you are likely to get disqualified even if your skills and experience are superb—companies also want people who are passionate and loyal. 

To genuinely present yourself as an ideal candidate, you must first understand your potential employer’s goals, business strategies, and needs so you can match your skills to the requirements listed in the job description. Learning about the company’s history and growth will not only help you prepare for potential questions but also demonstrate that you’re eager to work for this organization and that you’re resourceful, proactive, and serious about the position. You don’t need to go overboard, but do gain solid basic knowledge of the company, and make sure to communicate how well you can fit into it.

This research will also help you prepare insightful questions to ask near the end of your interview— nothing screams “unprepared” louder than not having a single question for the interviewer. Yes, the main purpose of this meeting is for them to ask you questions, but having a few well-thought-out queries of your own indicates your engagement and interest in the position. 

You can ask about the workplace culture, the ways to grow within the company, the greatest challenges you’ll face if you’re selected for the position, and anything else that shows you’re paying attention to the interviewer and are curious about working in this place. Avoid questions about salary, benefits, or other sensitive matters that could lead the interviewer to believe you only have monetary or superficial reasons for wanting the job.

Make sure you go beyond the company’s website when doing your research. Check its social media profiles, read articles about it, find out what its customers say, and analyze its corporate persona to get a good feeling of what it is about and who it expects you to be. You can’t assemble a full picture from a single source, so make sure your research is thorough enough to give a good idea of what your potential employer is truly like. 

Look good

Much as we’d all like to believe in blind meritocracy, it’s important to look good and dress for the part on the day of the interview. Your appearance may suggest more about you than you think, and the interviewer will make split-second unconscious judgments based on how you look, so make sure to show up looking your best. 

We suggest you plan your outfit at least a day in advance and try it on, preferably for your mock interview, which will give you time to make changes in case it doesn’t fit well, feels uncomfortable, or is inappropriate. The more time you give yourself, the more time you’ll have to fix potential issues or even buy a new outfit. Choose something professional and appropriate in subdued tones and patterns, and keep your accessories to a minimum—you don’t want your wardrobe choices to outshine you. 

Also, figure out what you’re expected to wear, which you can determine from your research. Different companies will expect different levels of formality, and you want to conform to this particular organization’s standards to the best of your ability since this will indicate you’re a good fit for its culture. If in doubt, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. 

However, looking good goes beyond what you wear: It’s all about how you present yourself, which also means being mindful of your body language. It’s important to appear calm and confident, even if you’re jittery on the inside. Confidence doesn’t mean you’re not nervous about the outcome of a potentially life-changing job interview—it simply means you can put on a calm face and tackle the challenge with a steady mind. 

Be aware of any distracting tics triggered by nerves, such as tapping your feet, biting your lips, or wringing your hands. These are generally unconscious behaviors you may engage in without even realizing it, which is one of the reasons why mock interviews are so valuable. Also, be mindful of your speech volume and tone, use appropriate language, make eye contact, and keep your answers concise and focused. Don’t overshare, but don’t evade any questions, either—you want to provide honest answers framed in a way that paints you in the best possible light. 

Sell yourself 

Although you definitely don’t want to come across as arrogant, you don’t want to be too humble, either. True confidence means knowing your strengths and weaknesses and not tearing anyone down to demonstrate your worth. A display of true confidence could mean more than the skills and experience on your resume because it can indicate who you are as a person and what your potential for growth is within the role.

Whatever level of confidence you possess, remember that job interviews are all about proving why you’re the ideal candidate for the position, and it’s up to you to sell yourself, your skills, and your experience to the interviewer. If you feel awkward talking about your accomplishments, prepare a few specific examples that showcase how you’ve had a positive impact, solved any problems, or made improvements at your previous or current job. Stories of past successes can be far more powerful than abstract descriptions of your skills because they represent real-life examples and give the interviewer a better idea of what you’re capable of. Keep in mind that they are judging your past actions to gauge how you might react in future situations, so focus on making yourself look good. 

End the interview on a positive note, be sure to thank the interviewer for their time, and maybe mention how excited you are about the opportunity to work with them. To make an even better impression, consider sending a follow-up letter after the interview to reinforce your professionalism and stand out from the crowd. This isn’t mandatory (although some hiring managers won’t consider applicants who don’t follow up with a thank-you note), but it can be a powerful way to rise above the competition. If you’re not sure what to say, check out our professionally crafted post-interview letter templates and strengthen your chances of success! 

Improve Your Resume or CV