Interview Preparation: Preparing to Make a Great First Impression

An interviewer will make a decision about you within 60 seconds of you walking through the door, so it is critical that you make a great first impression when invited for an interview.

The interviewer will have already started to form an opinion on your suitability based on your resume, however your first meeting will have a huge influence on whether you are selected for the job or are invited back for a second interview.

Here are a few tips for interview preparation that you can utilize to ensure that you present yourself in the best possible light.

Dressing for a Job Interview

How well you dress and look has a big impact on the impression you make on others when you first meet them, so make sure to look your best. Choose and set out your clothes the night before, making sure your selected wardrobe is clean, ironed and lint-free. You don’t want to be rushing around, looking for something to wear on the morning of the interview. What is regarded as acceptable interview attire varies from company to company, so it’s best to play it safe and opt for something businesslike and professional.

Choose a conservative outfit or suit in a darker color, such as dark grey or blue, with a plain white shirt or blouse. A tie or scarf should enhance the look of your outfit without standing out too much. Shoes should be black, leather and polished. A handbag or briefcase should also be black to match the rest of your outfit. If you wear earrings, they should be small and inconspicuous. It’s a good idea to try on your outfit beforehand to make sure it fits well and feels comfortable.

Personal hygiene and grooming is equally important, as it’s the kind of thing that is easily noticed. If necessary, get a haircut a few days before the interview and make sure to also clean your fingernails. Shower, shave and wash your hair on the morning of the interview and check for body odor or bad breath. Avoid wearing any strong colognes or perfumes, as they can become overpowering in a small interview room. Its best to wear no fragrance at all. Making the effort to look good, will make you feel better about yourself and give you more confidence during the meeting.

What to Take to an Interview

The night before, prepare a smart briefcase or folder with only the essential items you’ll need at the interview. This should include:

  • Printouts of extra copies of your resume
  • A notepad and pen
  • A list of references
  • A list of questions that you want to ask
  • A map and directions
  • Any supporting certification and letters of recommendation
  • Photo identification, a valid driver’s license and social security card

You can bring a cell phone with you in the event of a delay, but make sure to switch it off before the interview. Do not have any food or drinks with you when you enter the interview room and do not chew gum. A last minute check in the mirror before the start of your interview is also recommended, so be sure to bring a comb or hairbrush. Tissues and breath mints can also be handy.

Making Sure You Get There on Time

Timekeeping is obviously important to an employer, so plan ahead to make sure that you get to the interview at the allotted time. Look up travel schedules if traveling by bus or train and check back for delays or changes. If traveling by car, check the tires, make sure you have enough gas and look into the parking options nearby.

Look up the company’s address with Google Maps and print out detailed directions to the location. Do this even if you intend to use your car navigation system. Review the directions until you have a clear understanding of how to get there. Calculate how long your journey will take and factor in some extra time, in case of traffic or train delays. Also check online weather, so that you are prepared with an umbrella if necessary.

Aim to arrive 30 minutes ahead of time and find somewhere nearby to wait, such as a local library or smoke-free cafe. This will allow you to settle yourself and do some last minute interview preparation. This would be a good time to go over any questions that you want to ask at the interview. Avoid waiting at the place of the interview, as it may make you seem desperate. If something unforeseen causes you to be delayed, phone the company to apologize with a good excuse. Whether this is acceptable will depend on the interviewer’s schedule and how many other candidates they need to see.