Making a great first impression is critical for job seekers. Here is how to make your mark
Every job seeker knows they should write a good resume and give great interview answers, but employers look at a lot more than that when deciding who to hire.
Here are six specific details that employers weigh before deciding whether to offer you the job or not, that you may not have thought about.
1. Were you upfront and consistent with your interview answers?
I’ve worked with hundreds of job seekers as a recruiter and seen how much pressure people put on themselves to give "correct" interview answers. Sometimes this internal pressure even leads to lying. However, a lot of the time, the interviewer doesn't even have one specific answer they want to hear.
With a lot of questions, they're just looking to get a sense of your thought process, how honest and upfront you are, how your personality will fit with the current group, etc.
So yes, you need to give good interview question answers that demonstrate you'll be able to succeed in their job. However, don't lose sight of the fact that employers are also discussing whether you stayed consistent with your answers. For example, if HR asks you why you're job searching right now, and then the hiring manager asks you the same thing later, they're going to discuss it.
The different people you met with love to compare notes after you've left to make sure you stayed consistent. And each individual interviewer is going to judge whether you seem upfront and open, or whether you're hiding something. No employer wants to hire someone they can't trust or don't feel comfortable with, so try to seem as upfront as possible.
2. How were your appearance and body language?
Most of the job seekers I've worked with put a lot of thought into what they're saying to employers, but not nearly as much on how they look and what body language signals they're giving off.
The fact is, your interviewer is going to be gathering a first impression of you almost instantly upon meeting you. Even before you've had time to discuss anything verbally. And that first impression can impact how they remember the whole conversation after that point.
So practice having an upright, confident posture while sitting and standing. Practice your handshake with a friend to make sure it's firm but not too strong. And take the time to pick out a good interview outfit that's clean, wrinkle-free and professional.
This can set the tone for your entire interaction with the interviewer. It's very difficult to recover from a bad first impression, and your posture, body language and clothing play a big part in that.
3. How did you treat each person in the company?
Your character and integrity matter a lot to an employer. Make sure you treat each person you meet with kindly. This starts with the receptionist. You never know how much influence someone has in the company.
In one of the recruiting agencies I worked for, the receptionist had been with the company for decades and was one of the most important, respected and influential people. I was a bit early to my interview, and the hiring manager was late, so I had the chance to interact with her for 15 minutes in the waiting room, and I'm certain that how I conducted myself in the waiting room played a role in their hiring decision.
Assume the hiring manager is going to talk to every person you meet in a company to get their opinion on you; and assume that one or two doubtful people can cost you the job offer even if the hiring manager likes you a lot – because it can.
4. Did you send good "thank you" emails to show appreciation for their time?
Many job seekers assume their work is done once the interview is over. However, there's a big opportunity to set yourself apart and remind the employer how excited you are about their job.
You can do this by sending "thank you" emails to each person you met with. Your email should include:
- A personalized greeting for that specific person (e.g. “Hello Beth,”)
- A line thanking them for taking the time to meet with you
- Something specific they discussed with you that you enjoyed talking about
- A reminder that you're excited by what you learned in the interview and very interested in hearing about the next steps in the process
I'd recommend sending this email 12 to 24 hours after your interview. Also, get business cards from each person you interviewed with before you leave. That will make the process of following up easier.
While this isn't going to save you from a bad interview, it can be a difference-maker when an employer likes you and somebody else and isn't sure who to hire. (And that happens quite often because employers typically interview many people for each job opening).
5. Did you seem excited about their job?
Employers always want to hire somebody who seems excited to do the day-to-day work in the job. This is one of the reasons I mentioned sending "thank you" emails that reaffirm your interest in the position. Your interest and excitement in the job is entirely different than your ability to the work, but is an equally important factor to most employers.
Here's why: Even if you're highly-qualified, if you aren't excited about the job, employers are going to be afraid you'll get bored, give low effort, or leave for a different opportunity within the first year – which costs employers a lot of money.
Employers often invest dollars into training and hiring someone when you factor in the hiring manager's time, HR's time, etc., and so one of their biggest fears is hiring someone who's going to leave within the first year.
So to get more job offers, make sure you're ready to explain why their job interests you, what your long-term career goals are, and how this job fits into your goals.
6. Did you build rapport with the hiring manager?
When you sit down to interview with the hiring manager, they're not just assessing your skills and experience. They're going to be working with you every day if they hire you, and they want to get to know you as a person, too.
They want to make sure they like you and feel comfortable with you. They want to make sure you communicate well and seem honest and upfront. So don’t think of the hiring manager as some authority figure or someone who is interrogating you in the interview room. This is your future colleague, and someone you should try to get to know and build real rapport with.
When you sit down in their office, scan the room for anything you can turn into a talking point when the conversation shifts to small-talk. For example, photos of their family, any awards they have on their desk, etc.
If they ask you something personal about yourself, like whether you played a sport when you were younger, ask them in return.
And ask them great questions about the job in general. Asking questions is one of the best ways to show an employer you're well-prepared and know what you want in your job search, which is exactly what most employers look for.
Here are some ideas of questions you can ask them:
- Ask what your main goals would be in the first 90 days after being hired.
- Ask them what type of person seems to perform best in this role.
- Ask them if they can name something they’re hoping this new person can bring to the role that the team is currently lacking.
Little things like this can make you more memorable and more likely to get the job.
The hiring manager isn't just going to think back on your qualifications and interview answers, they're going to think about whether they enjoyed the conversation, whether you sounded enthusiastic, and whether they can picture you being a part of their team.
Neglecting these six areas can cost you job offers, even if you're more qualified than other candidates. However, if you focus on these six areas and make sure you're impressing employers in the subjects above, you'll set yourself apart from other job seekers and get more job offers for better-quality positions.