Emilio Lorenzo is the assistant director of career advisement in NSU’s Office of Career Development. He understands the importance of helping students reach their career goals and works with all students, including undergraduate, graduate and professional level students, to achieve their professional goals.
Emily Tasca is a member of the career advisement team in NSU’s Office of Career Development. She works with current students and alumni at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.
Have you ever tried making a positive first impression on someone, and it didn’t go as planned? Maybe you accidentally called someone the wrong name or spilled their drink onto their lap. Awareness of social rules and norms can help you avoid these awkward situations, and the same principle applies when making a good first impression in an interview.
During an interview, there is much more on the line, and the party you are trying to make an impression on knows that you have an agenda which entails obtaining a job from them. There are a multitude of common mistakes often made within interviews, and the tips below can help you to avoid them and market the best version of yourself.
Game-plan for the interview
Have you ever been waiting for someone for a lunch date or a planned meeting, and they show up late? It can be annoying because the message they’re really sending is that they don’t respect your time. This can be one of the first mistakes you make during the interview process that would be hard to recover from. That employer might jump to conclusions as to your work ethic. If you do not care enough to show up on time for a meeting that will determine if you get the job, what will happen when it comes to your day-to-day work?
A good rule of thumb for avoiding this is planning accordingly, which could entail driving to the interview site the day before to ensure that you know how long it will take to arrive and where to park.
Another strategic step that can be taken as you game-plan for the interview is to review all communication you’ve had with the employer thus far to solidify who you are meeting with, what their official title is and where their office is located within the building.
Game-planning can also include having the right mindset going into the interview. Understand that the interview is your chance to land the job and that you will be evaluated the moment you walk into the building. Taking this into consideration, you should shut off your cell phone and not be tempted to browse the web or play with apps while in the waiting room, as this also contributes to the first impression.
Research the company and yourself
Knowing the employer means more than just knowing where they are located. Researching the company before your interview is key to making a good first impression and will deliver a strong message in terms of your excitement and passion. When researching a company, try to identify key areas, including the company’s core values and mission, website resources, presence on social media and any recent news stories or updates on new projects or initiatives. The more you know about a company, the more you are able to connect the dots as to why you’re the right fit and how your past experiences relate to the position and add value to the company.
The only way to make these connections is to not just research the company, but to evaluate yourself. You should have an understanding of your strengths, shortcomings, transferrable knowledge and skills, your interest in growing with the company and how that will contribute to your career goals, as well as how you solidified your passion for the industry.
Professional attire and greeting
Breaking social norms when it comes to attire and overall appearance can lead to mixed messages between you and the employer. It’s best to stick to conservative, business professional attire for an interview, which means a matching suit jacket and slacks or a skirt, as well as an ironed collared shirt. Even if the company has a very casual culture, you still want to make a strong first impression. You can assimilate and adapt your attire accordingly once hired. Dressing to impress is only half the battle, as a firm and professional handshake coupled with proper body language and an overall positive demeanor will set the proper tone going into the interview.
Ask the right questions and avoiding negativity
You may have heard that you should always ask questions in a job interview. While this is correct, the key is to ask the right questions. Depending on where you are in the interview process, different questions may be appropriate. For example, if you are in the first interview, you want to stick to questions that are more focused on the job responsibilities and overall trajectory of the position. Later in the process, the questions can be geared more towards goals set within the position, specific initiatives planned and what type of applicant would contribute to the organization’s success.
On the other side of the spectrum, questions about salary, time off or other benefits should be avoided until the employer has made an offer and you enter the negotiating portion of the process. At this point, both parties have determined that they are a good fit for one another, and although discussing salary is awkward at times, it’s a necessary component and should occur at the proper time in the process.
Asking questions is important to making a positive impression, but how you answer questions factors into the employer’s decision to extend an offer. You should always focus on the positives in your stories and examples when responding to questions. Even if a past experience wasn’t the most pleasant in terms of how that organization you worked for treated their employees, you should still frame your answer in a manner that does not showcase the employer in a negative light.
Making a positive first impression in the interview process starts long before the interview actually begins and requires you to have the right mindset and strategic approach to get the employer to buy into your candidacy.