6 Tips to Make a Great First Impression at Work or In a Job Interview

Making a great first impression can be deal maker, or a deal breaker.

First impressions are made in the first 6 seconds that you meet someone.

We want you to make a meaningful impact when you are meeting someone for the first time, whether it is at a job interview, networking or at a social event.  Meeting people for the first time is easy for some people and hard for others.  This has less to do with the battle of introverts versus extroverts, and more to do with feeling equipped to know what to do and say when you walk into a room (or log into a screen).

When I am interviewing and recruiting, I try to put people at ease. At Career Contacts, our entire HR and Recruitment team is trained to focus on people first. This means that we walk into every interaction with a hope that we will get to know who you are, and what you are passionate about doing in your professional lives.  Here are a few tips to make a great first impression (and a bonus top on making a lasting impression):

  1. A bright smile and a friendly “hello” is what’s needed to immediately break the ice. We are talking to a lot of candidates who are nervous about being able to connect with their interviewers and hiring managers now that we are requiring them to wear masks.  Even if you are wearing a face mask, you can still see a smile in someone’s eyes.  At Career Contacts, we tested this theory during a team walk and were happy to see that not only were others able to receive our smiles, that we also felt the warmth and gratitude in return. This will put you at ease, as well as the person you are meeting.
REMINDER: Did you know that we often hear from hiring managers that they are also nervous about interviewing a candidate. Be mindful of this when you walk into a room, and do not expect that they will have all the answers (it will help you walk in with confidence too)
  1. A strong handshake. This used to be a key one for us as it was an easy way to demonstrate confidence in a first meeting. Now that you are not touching your interviewer, hiring manager, or others in a networking event, be prepared for how you want your greeting. Our team all have our own ways that we prefer to great others. Some prefer the elbow “bump”, others prefer a quick wave, while others still prefer to simply state “I would normally shake your hand, but it’s great to see/meet you”.
TIP: If you are ready for a new greeting, you’ll reduce any feelings of unease.
  1. Be positive, polite, and friendly. People enjoy spending time with people who behave in a way that demonstrates that they genuinely want to be there. A positive attitude shows confidence and leadership qualities.  It also shows the person you are meeting with that you value the time they are taking to meet with you. If you are requesting someone’s time or you’ve applied for a job and are being invited in, it’s important for you to thank the person for the time they are giving you (appreciation and gratitude always go a long way).
  1. Arrive on time. If you are running late please send a text, an email or call to let this person know so that they are prepared and not thinking the worst. Just like above, respecting someone’s time is critical. Even over Zoom, it’s important to log in a few minutes early and be patient with technology.

    In person, especially right now with added safety protocols in place, arrive early enough to ensure you have time to put on any PPE (personal protective equipment), answer any questionnaires and set yourself up from a safe distance to start your meeting.

  1. Use eye contact. Rather than looking down, looking away or not meeting a person’s gaze look them in the eye.  This will show them that you are interested, aware and paying attention. Not sure how to do that on an online call? Here is a hint: your eyes meet when you look into the camera, not when you look at their faces on your screen. Look into the camera to increase your ability to connect.
TIP: ensure you can see the face of the person you are meeting with. It ensures that you stay connected and not slowly move over to a social site or emails while the conversation is happening. It also allows you to mirror them and increase your connection.
  1. Practice a few filler questions to avoid awkward silence. Read more at The Muse for ideas, or check out these ideas of starting a conversation that will flow:
  • Tell me about yourself, what is your story?
  • Can you recommend a great lunch spot around here?
  • What is the most fun project you have worked on lately?
  • Have you been to any cool conferences or webinars lately?

Although in interviews a candidate often feels like they cannot be in the driver’s seat, most good recruiters and hiring managers know that they candidate should be speaking 80% of the time. That means that you have an opportunity to guide the conversation in directions that are most meaningful for you.

Making a great first impression is done quickly and does not take a lot of effort.  Give your attention to the person you are meeting.  Turn your phone off, give 100% of your focus and you will be a winner!

For more support during your job search, feel free to reach out to us – we are ready for your first impression!

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