Making a Great First Impression: Five Tips for a Successful Interview

04/05/2022Staff Writer
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Interviewing can be stressful, especially if you are just starting your career, rejoining the workforce after an extended period, or transitioning into a new industry. Below are five tips you should think about as you begin your journey.

Before Your Job Interview

Searching for and applying to open roles typically takes significant time and effort. It's essential to prepare for your job interview before the day it's scheduled, despite balancing your persistent job search, personal life, and the demands of your current position.

Spending a couple of hours on prep ahead of your job interview will help you walk in feeling confident and prepared. Prior preparation is the not-so-secret key to impressing your potential employer and presenting the best version of yourself to everyone—in the room, or on your computer screen.

#1 Research your potential employer

Research is one of the most valuable pre-interview activities out there. It equips you to provide informed answers to interview questions and to show your potential employer that you're genuinely invested in becoming part of their company.

Take some time to read up on the company. Browse their website, social profiles, and any other content you can find online to learn about who they are and how you could contribute to their efforts. Before you walk into your interview, you should familiarize yourself with several key facts and answer questions like:

  • What is the organization's mission?
  • Who are their target customers?
  • What products, services, or solutions do they provide?

This research also allows you to identify what you'd like to learn during the interview. Even though some of us imagine an interview as a one-way interrogation, it should actually be a two-way conversation that allows you to learn about your potential employer as they learn about you. Consider how well the company's values and culture align with your own, as well as how the role you're interviewing for complements your skillset and past experience.

Jot down any questions you have about the company or the specific role you're applying for. Your curiosity will show interviewers that you've done your research, and it gives you a chance to learn more about the company during the initial stages of the hiring process.

#2 Practice, practice, practice

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, but practice can help you kick the nerves and put your best foot forward on interview day. Start by reviewing typical interview questions and practice your answers. You'll want to use each question as an opportunity to highlight relevant skills from your resume and give interviewers more insight into your previous experiences. They have your resume and application materials. They've read it. Now, tell them what it means for them. Be prepared to describe what about your approach led to the accolades on the page in front of them.

Steer clear of writing a script or memorizing your responses word-for-word. Instead, spend some time thinking deeply about your answers and practicing them out loud to lower your risk of freezing up when you're on the spot.

Practice runs are another great way to get comfortable with the interview process. Ask a friend or family member to conduct a simulated interview with you based on the questions you uncovered in your research. Do it as many times as you can until you feel confident.

On the Day of Your Job Interview

You'll have a lot on your mind the day of your interview, but keeping a few tried-and-true tips in mind will help you stay cool, calm, and collected throughout the process.

#3 Arrive on time

Everyone's time is valuable, including yours! Arriving at your interview on time and ready to begin right away makes a great first impression with employers and helps ensure the discussion flows smoothly.

In this case, timeliness doesn't just mean beating the clock but also giving yourself some time to work out technical difficulties on Zoom or find the correct suite number in a large office building.

In-person interviews

Most working professionals follow the mantra: to be early is to be on time…to be on time is to be late.

When attending an interview, you might need a few extra minutes to account for the train schedule, find a parking space, navigate the building, etc. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Look up the location and how long it will take to get there. Include a buffer for traffic if needed.
  • Plan to arrive five to ten minutes early for the interview.
  • Give yourself extra time to pull yourself together, gather your thoughts, and calm your nerves.

Virtual interviews

Virtual interviews have become increasingly popular in recent years. This interview format eliminates your commute and, for some people, adds an extra level of comfort since they can take the call from their own home. And while you don't have to worry about traffic or sit in a crowded waiting room, there are still a few ways to demonstrate punctuality and preparedness:

  • Download the necessary tools (like Zoom or Teams) in advance, not five minutes before the call.
  • Test your audio and video settings to ensure everyone can see and hear you.
  • Join the interviewer's virtual waiting room 3-5 minutes before the scheduled interview time.

#4 Engage with the interviewer(s)

Interviews can be daunting, especially if you're in front of several people. Remember to make eye contact with the interviewer(s) asking the questions, keep an eye on body language, and engage with everyone in attendance, whether you're in a 1-1 interview or meeting with a panel. Employers are looking for unspoken clues about you, the candidate, through various means.

Body language speaks volumes and can help communicate a positive message to your interviewer. You don't want to come off as sloppy or stiff. Think about your posture. Sitting straight conveys you are comfortable and confident, while slouching or being hunched over may give an impression of nervousness or even of low self-esteem.

Know your audience and carefully read the room. Be energetic but not overconfident. Employ active listening techniques to pay attention to all questions. Tips for active listening include:

  • Strive to make a relatable connection with your interviewer, especially in a virtual setting.
  • Summarize and repeat back what you heard to ensure accuracy and alignment.
  • Concentrate on the message and value behind each comment your interviewer makes.

A surge in virtual connections has created a presence of humanity in the historically polished video landscape. If your dog or child unexpectedly enters the room during your interview, or a loud background noise comes through, don't let it fluster you too much. It's ok to simply address what is happening with the understanding that a culture of empathy is prevailing in the world of video conferencing.

After Your Interview

You made it! You just crushed an interview with your potential employer, but that doesn't mean you should step back and wait to hear from them. Staying engaged and communicating proactively with the interviewer or your primary contact will help you progress to the next steps in your evaluation.

#5 Say "thank you" and pursue next steps

Sending over a thank you note is a quick and easy post-interview activity that will leave a lasting impression on your interviewer.

Write a short email to the person or group you interviewed with and send it within 24 hours of your interview, simply thanking them for their time and letting them know you look forward to learning more about the next stage in the hiring process. For bonus points, include something you found interesting during the interview, or that you look forward to discussing further during your next interaction.

This message gives you a chance to express your gratitude and seamlessly transition into the "next steps" conversation. Plus, it keeps your name at the top of employers' minds and shows them that you're excited by the prospect of working for them.


Looking for more guidance on how to ace an upcoming job interview?

CareerCircle's free Interview Prep Tool has you covered! Our personalized quizzes walk you through every phase of the interview process, from assessing job fit to following up with potential employers after your interview concludes.

[Explore the Interview Prep Tool]