You passed the first test: your resumé made it to the top of the pile. Now your dream employer has called and asked you for an interview.
Given the rising adoption of technology and the shift toward remote work, your interview can take place in one of several different formats, including in-person, over the phone, or virtually. The format of the meeting will likely impact how you prepare yourself to make a good impression. For example, a virtual job interview might require you to test your computer system in advance, or you might prepare a note sheet to keep handy during a phone interview. While these steps are likely unnecessary for an in-person interview, there are several ways you can prepare yourself to put your best foot forward.
As the adage goes, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” But how do you ensure your first impression is enough to win employers over? Here are eight tips to help you brush up on the basics of in-person job interview etiquette.
How to Impress in a Job Interview
1. Do your research.
You should be able to repeat the company’s mission, key players, and latest accomplishments before you walk in for the interview. Take time to review the employer’s website and Google who you’ll be interviewing with, so you can ask more targeted questions. Not only will that prove you pay attention to detail, but the more you know about the person sitting across from you, the less likely a lull in the conversation.
2. Dress professionally.
In general, it’s better to overdress than underdress. No matter how informal the company’s culture seems, a well-tailored suit or dress is always a safe bet. How often have you heard an employer complain about how put together a job candidate looked?
3. Arrive on time.
Arriving on time for an in-person interview is imperative to making a positive first impression. Even if you are familiar with the location of the interview, give yourself plenty of time for travel.
Especially if you aren’t familiar with the area that you’ll be traveling to, anticipate getting lost to avoid the stress of potentially being late. Build in an extra 30 minutes to get to the interview and plan ahead for traffic jams, difficulty finding parking, delays in public transportation, or the building being harder to find than you originally thought. Being five minutes early will allow you to compose yourself, but being five minutes late could ruin your chances.
4. Limit distractions.
During the interview process, it’s critical that you give the interviewer your full attention and limit any distractions that might get in the way. One of the most important steps in doing so is to turn your cell phone off—all the way off. If you want the employer to contact you again, don’t let yourself get distracted by whoever is trying to contact you during the interview.
5. Pay attention to body language.
People can learn a lot about each other through their body language. In order to make a strong first impression, be mindful of the messages that your body language is communicating with the interviewer.
When you begin the interview, start with a firm handshake. A firm handshake shows authority and sets the tone for the rest of the interview. Pair it with eye contact and a smile if you want the interviewer to know you’re confident in your ability to tackle the job. The limper the handshake, the more timid you’ll come across.
Throughout the interview, make sure that you sit up straight, keep your head high, and sync your movements with your words. You’ll appear assured, which is what employers want in a new hire.
6. Have answers to questions you know will be asked.
Employers tend to have a must-ask list of interview questions. Some to prepare for include:
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
- Why should we hire you?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Jot down your responses and practice saying them in the mirror, so you feel more comfortable and confident in the actual interview.
If you are applying for a position at a larger national or regional company, it may also be possible to find commonly asked interview questions online. Consider doing a quick Google or Glassdoor search for “interview questions for [employer]” and see if anything comes up. If so, it can be a good idea to prepare for any questions that seem to be common.
7. Ask informed questions.
Any good interviewer will ask, “What questions do you have?” Through this, the hiring manager can gain a better sense of how well you know the company, understand the role, and have an interest in working there. Keep at least five questions in your back pocket, such as:
- What is the company culture like?
- What are some of the biggest challenges facing the company currently?
- What would you say has been the company’s biggest success so far this year?
- What is your favorite part about working here?
- What opportunities are there for professional development?
Not only will these questions help you learn about the company and your potential role, but it will also show the hiring manager that you have a genuine interest in the company.
8. Follow up.
Send an email and handwritten thank you note to everyone you interviewed with. Although snail mail sounds outdated, it shows you’re willing to go the extra mile and reaffirms your interest in the position.
Learn More: How to Follow Up After an Interview
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Preparing to meet hiring managers for in-person interviews can feel intimidating, especially if you’re being considered for a position that aligns with your personal and professional goals. Fortunately, taking a bit of time to brush up on your interview etiquette and prepare yourself for the meeting can help you feel more confident and position you to make a winning first impression.