It is commonly suggested that an employer will make a firm hiring decision based on their judgment of your character in the first 20 to 30 seconds of meeting you, and we’re here to tell you that it’s no rumor, it’s the TRUTH! We know, that’s a lot of pressure! Before you wave your white flag and surrender to those nasty feelings of unfathomable stress and “Now I’ll NEVER get hired,” relax!  The good news is that there are many steps you can take to ensure that you ace that first impression and increase your chances of landing the job.

First things first -timing is everything.

“To be late is to be forgotten” is a pretty accurate little adage, as if you are late for an interview, you might as well forget your chances for a job offer (unless you have a REALLY good excuse.  And even then, the hiring manager might not listen to you long enough to hear it).   When arriving to an interview, timing is extremely important. The night before, make sure to map out your route and estimate your travel time. Always be sure to factor in impending weather conditions, road blocks and construction. Assuming things are going your way, you should end up arriving at your interview early. According to business etiquette articles everywhere, it’s important that you check in no earlier than five to ten minutes before your interview. Any earlier can throw a hiccup in your interviewer’s schedule and cause them to feel rushed. A little extra rehearsing in your car before an interview never hurt anyone, but waltzing in late has.

Dress for the job you want.

Besides your ability to accurately read a clock and arrive on time, dress and appearance are the first things an interviewer will notice when they first meet you, so it’s important to look clean cut and professional. Business professional attire, such as a well tailored business suit, is typically the most appropriate style of dress for all interviews. This will help you to appear as a seasoned, confident professional. (Which is exactly what you are, right?)

The art of the handshake.

The handshake is like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It shouldn’t be too firm or too soft; you need it to be just right. A weak handshake can give the impression that you are timid or lack confidence. Conversely, a handshake that is too firm can make you seem a bit too eager, and to be frank, can hurt the interviewer’s hand! A perfect handshake is a firm grip where the webs between your thumb and index finger connect. Be sure to shake/pump your hand one to two times for a balanced handshake. A solid handshake will make you appear determined and confident. Also, if you find yourself to be a nervous individual and tend to suffer from sweaty palms, try washing your hands with cold water right before your interview to help alleviate this.

Don’t let your body do the talking for you.

We all have nervous ticks; anyone who tells you that they don’t is lying. What they really mean is that they are experts at hiding them and controlling them, especially in interviews. Sometimes our bodies have a way of saying something completely different than what our mouths are saying. This, my fellow career enthusiasts, isn’t a good thing in an interview. Body language signifies confidence, so remember to always sit tall with your shoulders back, and always be sure to maintain a strong posture and have subtle movements. Especially remember to not fidget during your interview. This means, no hair twirling, playing with loose jewelry or clothing, crossing your arms and legs often, tapping a pen, and always be sure to maintain direct eye contact. Often times we don’t even know we are doing these nervous habits in the midst of an interview, so make sure to take a deep breath and be conscious of your body language.

Be honest and genuine.

Many interviewees fall into the trap of answering questions and acting the way they THINK a solid interview should go.  However, nothing rubs an interviewer the wrong way quite like when they feel someone is putting on a show. (read: interview, not audition!) Your honest flaws and weaknesses are something an employer maybe be able to work with, but if they just spent 45 minutes talking to you and don’t even know who you are, then you just wasted both of your time.  Be sure to be the “best version of yourself.”  Of course you want to polish your answers up a bit, but make sure you are genuine and thoughtful in your responses and demeanor, because only then will you and the employer know if you, the REAL you, will be the right fit for the job.

So what’s the moral of this article? First impressions matter! Don’t fall victim to some of the first impression blunders that so many have done before you. Follow our steps and ace that first meeting, so that it isn’t your last!