Interviewing? Here’s How to Create a Lasting First Impression

When interviewing for a job, it’s certainly not hard to find plenty of advice online about how to prepare for the interview. Your resume looks flawless. You’ve studied the company’s website. You’ve prepared a number of questions to ask the interviewer. You’ve carefully chosen your wardrobe to make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Unless you’re a recent college graduate, chances are this isn’t your first interview, and you know the drill.

But when thinking about an upcoming interview, don’t overlook the small details of your first encounter with a potential employer. While they may not require practice or preparation, being cognizant of them can prove to be the difference in returning from the interview employed or unemployed. Here’s how to master your first impression.

The Handshake

Possibly the simplest, yet most easily overlooked part of the interview. It always amazes me how much you can tell about a person from his or her handshake, and how many people form opinions based on this and are never willing to change them. Want to show a potential employer that you’re shy, lazy, or just can’t be bothered with the task of meeting new people? There’s no better way than to give them a “dead fish” handshake. Many people find the unwillingness to give a firm handshake as the sign of a lack of commitment or determination – both qualities an interviewer wants to see in an eager new employee.

Want to show them that you’re impatient, brash, and hard to manage? An overly firm handshake will do just that. No one likes a handshake that leaves their hand hurting afterward. Some see this as a sign of an overly aggressive personality – one that can certainly be unpleasant to deal with in the workplace.

Finally, nothing says “I couldn’t care less about meeting you” more than not bothering to look at the person with whom you’re shaking hands. A personal pet peeve of mine, if someone can’t be bothered with making eye contact when shaking hands, I know for sure this is not the person I want working for me. I can even recall one or two instances when the person with whom I was shaking hands started a conversation with someone else in the room while shaking my hand. If this ever happened to me with a potential job candidate, it would be the shortest interview I ever conducted.

The Greeting

This should be common knowledge, but then so should many other things that are often overlooked. When meeting a potential employer for the first time, keep your greeting cordial and formal. “Pleasure to meet you” will make a good first impression – simple and polite. Remember that you’re not hanging out with your friends at the local pub. If you’re lucky, you may eventually achieve that level of friendship with the person with whom you’re interviewing. But until then, “Sup?” is not a proper greeting.

Remember: You’re Being Watched

From the moment you step foot on company property until the moment you leave, keep in mind that your actions may be reported to your potential employer. If you’re the type of person who is only polite to those who outrank you and can further your career, expect your self-serving nature to eventually come back to haunt you. Nearly every veteran recruiter has a story of a candidate who disrespected a receptionist or maintenance worker in a potential employer’s office en route to the interview, only to lose the job because of it. The same goes for littering in the parking lot, eating in the reception area before the interview, or any other action that may signal the employer that you are not the ideal personality type that they want working for them.

Any new hire can attest to the amount of work that goes into getting a new job. From the long-term preparation (education, work experience, and training) to the short-term preparation (studying the potential employer’s company, products, and culture), always keep in mind subtleties such as body language and manners. While they alone may not be enough to get you hired, they can certainly be the reason you are not chosen. And what sadder way for a perfectly qualified candidate to lose a job opportunity?

RELATED: How to Answer the Top 10 Interview Questions

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.