Entry-level job interviews are stressful enough.
When you’re preparing to speak with the highest-level company executives for a senior position in a company, all that stress and intimidation multiplies.
You can research the company thoroughly, iron every detail of your resume, and practice for the hundreds of different questions they might ask, but all those preparations can be deeply affected by how you initially present yourself—first impressions make all the difference.
If you want to make a good first impression in an executive-level job interview (and if you want the job, you definitely do), follow these eight tips to succeed:
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Show Up on Time
It might seem like a small action, but it can make or break your first impression. If your interview is at noon and you show up at 12:15, you might not instantly be out of the running, but you’ll start the meeting on a sour note.
Aim to show up at least 15 minutes early, and wait in your car or in the parking lot if you need to. Plan on more traffic than you reasonably expect, and have a backup plan in case your primary travel arrangements fall through. In a worst-case scenario, call in advance to proactively announce your lateness—you won’t get the bonus points of being on time, but you’ll make yourself appear more thoughtful and considerate.
“Appropriate” here doesn’t necessarily mean dressing up in your best attire—it all depends on the company and position you’re applying for. A law firm might require your finest suit and a fresh haircut to boot, but if you’re trying to get into a down-to-earth, casual startup, a decent shirt and nice pair of jeans might help you fit in better. Do your research, and dress the way you expect everyone else to—now isn’t the time for bold fashion statements or risks.
Befriend the Receptionist (and Anyone Else You Encounter)
If you’re fixated on the top-level executives about to interview you, you might blow off the receptionist or other workers you encounter on your way to your meeting. Doing so can leave them with a bad impression of you, and if your interviewers see this behavior, they’ll think less of you, too. Instead, make small talk and be friendly with everyone you encounter. It shows you see everyone as equals, and that you’re friendly and charismatic enough to hold conversations with strangers.
Avoid Using Your Phone
It should be obvious that texting on your phone in the middle of an interview is a bad idea. However, this isn’t the only danger zone—it’s also a good idea to avoid using your phone excessively in the lobby or as you wait for your interviewers to arrive. Also, double check to ensure your volume is turned off. The last thing you want is for your high-level job interview to be interrupted by an obnoxious ringtone.
Gesticulate—But Not Too Much
Using your hands and arms to emphasize certain points in your speech can help solidify your interviewers’ impressions of you as a powerful communicator. Be careful that you don’t overdo it, though. Wildly flailing your hands around will make you seem like a lunatic. Reserve gesticulation for your most important points, and don’t force the action or it will seem unnatural.
Smile and Maintain Eye Contact
This is another basic tip, but one that too many interview candidates neglect. Don’t smile aggressively, but do smile when meeting someone and at various points during the interview. It will help your interviewers think positively of you. Eye contact also shows that you pay attention during conversation and demonstrates confidence.
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Mind Your Body Language
Your body language says a lot about you. Simple changes, like releasing your facial tension and taking up space without alienating other people can make a critical difference in landing a good first impression. Stand or sit up straight, and avoid frantic movements like tapping your foot or shifting your hands. The calmer and more confident you appear, the better.
It’s easy to get lost in these tips and try to transform yourself into an entirely new person for the sake of the interview, but don’t do that. Be yourself during the interview, and show off your unique personality. Otherwise, you might come off as robotic, over-rehearsed, or indifferent.
An executive-level interview might be stressful and intimidating, but as long as you make a good first impression, you’ll start things off on the right foot. These simple tips are easy to remember and master, but they still make a powerful impression on your interviewers. Practice with a friend, spouse, or coworker in advance, so you exhibit these traits naturally and effectively.