Getting hired often depends more on what you do before the interview than what you do in the interview.

We have covered the importance of: 1) “Knowing Your Target”, by researching the company on the internet or by asking questions of existing employees at the worksite; 2) “Knowing Yourself”, by listing your skills and abilities – knowing what you’re selling in preparation for convincing the employer what you have to offer; and, 3) “Practicing the Interview”, by having a friend or relative ask you questions that are likely to be asked in an interview. Be sure to record these practice sessions to see how the employer sees you!

Now that you’ve ‘packaged’ your skills and are ready to show the employer how they match their job requirements, let’s turn our attention to packaging what the employer will see when you show up for the interview – your first impression.

Much has been written about first impressions, and how interviewers make assumptions about you and your abilities based upon how you present yourself. Some research suggests that many employers have pretty much made up their minds to hire you within the first 15 seconds of seeing you. Whether you have 15 seconds, or 15 minutes, no one disputes that first impressions are critical and lasting.

There are many ways to make a good first impression. Three of these include appropriate dress, showing up on time, and greeting the interviewer.

Dress the Part

The way you’re dressed is the first thing that will be noticed. Is your dress appropriate for the interview? It is generally accepted you should dress the way you would on that job. My suggestion is to wear something one step dressier than what would be expected at work. For example, if you will wear jeans on the job, wear something like Dockers for the interview. If you will wear a button up shirt, then add a tie for the interview. Whatever you wear, make sure it is clean. Clothes that have been ironed suggest you have pride in your appearance, and that you will carry that same pride into your work. The way you dress is one way to set yourself apart from the other 15 people being interviewed that day.

Personal grooming is also part of your “dress”. Allow an extra hour to get ready for your interview. Spend some extra time to make sure your fingernails are clean, you’re clean shaven and your hair is neat and clean. Tattoos should be covered, and body piercing should be removed (other than modest ear rings for women). Perfume or aftershave should be very light, if used at all. Some people are allergic to perfume, and most people are turned off by over-use.

Arrive Early

This may seem obvious, but if you’re not on time for your interview, don’t plan on getting the job. Make sure you know where the interview will be held. Getting there early allows you to take a few deep breaths, organize your notes, review your resume, and scan any company materials that may be available in the waiting room. It also allows you to visit the rest room to do a last-minute appearance check.

The result? You’ll feel better about yourself, and you’ll be more relaxed in the interview. So, leave plenty of time, and get there early. It gives you a psychological edge.

Your Chance to Shine

You’ve prepared for all known contingencies. You’re mentally and physically ready. You’re relaxed in knowing you’ve done all you could to put your best foot forward.

As your name is called or as the interviewer approaches:

  • Smile
  • Look the interviewer in the eye as you offer your hand
  • Shake his or her hand firmly … but not like a vise.

The interviewer will often introduce their self first. If this happens, say something enthusiastic like, “Hello Mrs. Smith, it’s my pleasure to meet you!” If there are other panelists, take the initiative to introduce yourself as you enter the room.

If you notice something of interest in the interviewer’s office, like a hunting or fishing trophy make a positive comment. This will help break the ice and will result in a more relaxed discussion.

The way you prepare and present yourself in the interview is assumed by the employer to be the same way you’ll perform on the job. If you’re ill prepared for the interview, you’ll probably never get the chance to show what a great employee you could be. If you’re prepared, what you did before the interview will help earn the job in the interview.