Tips to Make a Great Impression at Your Next Job Interview
You polished your résumé. You wrote a great cover letter. You applied for the job and got the call for the interview. Congratulations! They’re obviously interested in you and are giving you a chance to really shine in person. Take advantage of it.
To find out how to make the best possible impression at your job interview, we reached out to Teela Jackson, vice president at Talent Connections, an Atlanta-based recruitment solutions firm. Her overarching advice is to remain upbeat and positive during the entire interview. Even if something awful happened to you on the way there, don’t appear flustered or upset, she says — “and never, ever, speak negatively about a previous employer or colleague.”
Jackson shared a few more tips to ensure you make a great impression at your next job interview.
Plan Ahead to Calm Your Nerves
A lot of the make-or-break stress that comes with an interview can be remedied ahead of time with a little planning. Here are some things you need to think about well before the morning of your interview.
- What to bring. You’ll want to have at least three copies of your résumé, Jackson says, and should offer it to the interviewer/s as soon as the greetings are done. Also, bring something to take notes on, “whether it’s a nice notepad or padfolio.” She says there’s no need to bring an additional copy of your cover letter.
- What to wear. “It’s best to ask about the company dress code when scheduling the interview, whether via phone or email,” Jackson says. Her rule of thumb is that it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, but says you should still try to match the tone of the office. “If you have no clue, check out their website, Facebook or Instagram page to gauge whether business, business casual or casual is the way to go,” she says. Lay out your outfit and accessories before the morning of the interview so everything is together.
- When to arrive. You should arrive 10 to 15 minutes ahead of your interview, Jackson says. If you’re too early you can make the interviewer feel rushed, but you absolutely shouldn’t be late. Prepare ahead of time and make sure you have good directions and a good idea of traffic flow so you’ll arrive on time. If you arrive earlier than you meant to, Jackson recommends listening to upbeat music or engaging in some positive self-talk in the car to kill some time and put you in a positive frame of mind.
Keep Your Cool During the Interview
Once you’re there, remember that the interview starts as soon as you pull in the parking lot or walk onto the property, Jackson says. Everyone you interact with can potentially influence the decision on whether to hire you.
- Be polite to everyone you interact with, from the receptionist to CEO. If you’re only kind and upbeat with those you’ll be reporting to or higher, people will notice. “The receptionist may not be the decision-maker; however, they can influence the hiring decision,” Jackson says. Even if you’re nervous, offer a genuine smile and say something nice to brighten the receptionist’s day. Then, of course, continue these positive interactions with everyone you meet.
- Remain poised during the interview. The interviewer has asked a tough question and now you’re a little flustered. What do you do? “Try to take advantage of the time when the interviewer is asking a question to take some unnoticeable deep breaths in and out,” Jackson says. Reframe the question and repeat it back to the interviewer if you’re unclear. This can give you a moment to regain composure. Assuming you’re just flustered and not having a health emergency, ”keep your eye on the ball and your head in the game,” Jackson says. “The show must go on.”
End It on a Classy Note
The end of the interview is just as important as the beginning. This is your final impression and you want to close things out in a positive manner.
- Close with a handshake and reiterate your interest in the job. “Be sincere in expressing your appreciation for their time, let them know you’re interested in moving forward to next steps and leave the door open for them to follow up with you if they have any questions,” Jackson says.
- Send an email or note immediately after. Jackson has no preference for email versus a handwritten note; it’s just important that you do some form of follow up, she says. If the interviewer shared a card that includes their email address, send an email, she says. If not, send a note. “If you interview with multiple people, each person should receive a separate thank-you note,” Jackson says. She also suggests a potential shortcut: “If the receptionist has business cards at the front desk, grab one. You can send the thank-you notes to that person and ask her/him to forward them on to your interviewer/s. If you go this route, include a specific thank-you note for the receptionist.” This is a classy move that will get you noticed.
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