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First Impressions: What to Do When First Meeting with a Potential Employer

Making a great first impression with an employer is very important if you want to get a job offer. First impressions are formed a lot faster than you think. Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, in his 2005 bestseller Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, contends a first impression is made in less than two seconds. 

What does this mean when meeting with a potential employers? In short, small details matter in big ways. For this one meeting, it’s important to sweat the small stuff and get everything right if you can, as this first meeting will likely influence how the employer sees you from that point on. 

Here are eight tips for ensuring the first impression you make is a good and lasting one, whether you’re meeting virtually or in person.

1. Look Professional

Everyone knows how you look really shouldn’t be the most important thing about how people view you, but for a first impression, it’s highly important that you project a professional image. That’s because the employer has limited information about you to consider, so your image will seem more important than it will later on when they have more data.

Ideally, you should be dressed for a professional interview including shoes, accessories, and makeup and a purse if you’re female. If you can’t afford brand-name professional clothing, it should at least be well-fitting, neat, and clean. When meeting in person, use some perfume or cologne if you have it, but not so much that it’s overpowering. If you’re at all unsure about your appearance, ask a trusted professional friend to give you an honest opinion beforehand.

2. Act Professional

If you’re brand new to formal interviews, take some time to learn the protocols so you come across as professional in your attitude and image. This means shaking hands, introducing yourself and any companions or group members, and being polite. 

Acting professionally during a job interview in an office is easy, but some meetings are less formal or virtual and make it harder to know what a professional demeanor is. If you’re meeting over a meal, be sure you know the rules of good manners for your venue, which could be casual or formal. If you’re not sure, find out what you need to know before the meeting. 

3. Be Friendly (Naturally)

A naturally friendly manner is attractive, so you should add friendliness to your professional behavior. A huge part of friendliness is to smile, so make sure you smile during the meeting. Another important aspect of friendliness is to treat everyone with the same friendly attitude, whether they’re the CEO or the janitor. 

The best way to be friendly is to show interest in other people. Listening when they talk about themselves and ask one or two questions to show you’re listening. This will give them a positive impression of you, even if you’re not sharing information about yourself. If you get a job with the company, friendliness will also help you make a positive first impression on your new co-workers as well. 

Professional woman smiling

4. Be Punctual

Being on time or early is important for a first impression. You should do everything you can to be on time, and if you need to be late, there should be a good reason and you should call ahead of time to let the employer know what’s going on. Even so, there could be irreversible damage to your first impression no matter how good your reason for being late is.

This means leaving earlier than you think you’ll need to for an in-person meeting, and logging into technology several minutes early for a virtual meeting in case there are technical difficulties. It’s far better to be early than late. This also shows preparedness and a desire to impress. 

5. Do Research

Look up information on the prospective employer before meeting them so you have a basic idea of what the company does. This information will allow you to have an intelligent conversation with the employer about the company and will also signal that you’re interested enough in the potential job to find out more. 

6. Ask (Smart) Questions

Even if you have done research, you will still have questions you can ask to find out more about the job and the company. There are many websites that list questions to ask during interviews if you aren’t sure if yours will sound intelligent. It’s also important to find the right balance of questions, asking a few but not turning the interview into an interrogation on your part. 

7. Pay Attention

The world today has made it too easy to get distracted in situations that require focus, like job interviews or meetings with potential employers. If you know you have issues with distraction and you’re prone to zoning people out when they’re talking to you, it’s a good idea to practice with a friend until you can remain focused. 

8. Turn Your Phone Off

Getting a noisy text or a phone call while meeting with a prospective employer will ruin the employer’s impression of you, as it’s unprofessional and inappropriate. Making sure to silence your phone for a few minutes will show you value the meeting and want to give it top billing while it’s going on. The meeting probably won’t take long, so whatever’s happening in your life can wait while you take care of important business. 

Need help finding your next employer and impressing them with your skills and personality? GDH can be a valuable ally on your career path. 

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