Ace That Interview: How to Make a Good First Impression

How important is it to impress an employer at the job interview stage? For starters, think of this: 99% of unsuccessful applications, even by highly qualified candidates, were because of one or more critical mistakes made during the interview. Obviously, you don’t want to make the same mistakes. So read on, and learn how to ace that interview.

Note that whether you’re applying for a full-time job, a part-time job or a contractual job, these fundamentals remain the same.


Before the Interview

Tip 1: Your Resume

Before you get to sit down for your interview, you’ll have to prepare your resume. This is your written self-introduction. It’s through your resume that the employer gets to know you before he gets to meet you in person.

Your resume should contain the following information:

  • Your name and address.
  • Job objective: the type of job you want.
  • Summary of qualifications: your work experience in the job you’re interested in.
  • Relevant experience: the skills you possess that are relevant to the job.
  • Work history: the companies you’ve worked for, whether full-time, part-time or contractual, the positions you held, and the years you worked in these companies, and your most notable accomplishments.
  • Education: the schools you attended, from grade school to college (or grad school), and the years you attended these school levels.
  • Contact information: your email address and telephone number.

In preparing your resume, use easy to read fonts like Times Roman, Helvetica, or Arial. Ideal font size is 12 points. Do not use boxes or shadings. Keep it simple and easy to read; avoid specialized jargon. Use bullet points instead of paragraphs. Do not include information that’s not relevant to your job objective. Limit your resume to two pages maximum. If possible, create more than one resume, customized for the different companies you plan to apply to.

When sending your resume, be sure to include a covering letter. Follow this format:

Your Name & Address


Receiver’s Name, Title, Company & Address


First Paragraph – Your interest in the job, how you found the job, and your current employment status.

Second Paragraph – Your competencies relevant to the job opening.

Third Paragraph – Other competencies you possess that you think will be pluses for the job, the company, and the industry.

Fourth Paragraph – Closing / Your email and contact number.


Tip 2: Preparation

So your resume has earned you a call for an interview. Now it’s time to prepare. The first thing you have to do is learn the typical interview questions and answers. Ask a friend who has been there and done that (whether as the interviewer or interviewee, or even both) what sort of common interview questions you should expect, and how you should respond to these. The more seasoned your friend is, the better for you to gain insights into the art of fielding interview questions. Practice with your friend and tell him to critique your performance.

Know the job and the company. Be sure you have a compete understanding of the job description for the position you’re applying for, including how it differs from other similar jobs. For example, if you’re applying for a marketing job, be sure you know how this differs from sales. If you’re applying for a job in finance management, know how this differs from accounting. It would also help to do some research on the company. This includes its corporate philosophy, its ranking in its industry and its competition. This knowledge will help you answer interviewers’ questions in a way that will impress upon them that you are serious about the job.

Dress properly. This may seem to go without saying, but you have to pay attention to every detail of your attire. Avoid loud, bright colors like flaming red, as these seem to scream for attention. Opt instead for more subdued colors like peach, light blue, cream, or beige. Make sure your clothes are well pressed and fit properly. Don’t forget to polish your shoes. When you show up appropriately dressed, you’re telling the people you meet that you respect their company, and that will go a long way towards creating a good first impression.

During the Interview

The big day has finally come. After all those weeks or even months of preparation and anticipation, you’re finally on your way to your first interview. Don’t be just on time, be early. If your appointment is 10:00 AM, be there about 9:45 at the latest. You don’t want to rush from the parking lot to the building lobby to the elevator and up to the office. No interviewer wants to face an applicant who looks frazzled and sweaty.

Be sure you have all the documents you’ll need. Even though you sent your resume earlier, it won’t hurt to bring an additional copy just in case your interviewer might have misplaced his copy. Also bring a character references document and one or two valid IDs. Keep these neatly organized in a folder or envelope so you can locate them quickly if you are asked to produce these.

Be pleasant, professional and respectful. Smile at the receptionist as you state the purpose of your visit. Exude positive energy. You want to be remembered as one who interacted well with the people in the office.

Greet your interviewer with a warm “good morning” or “good afternoon.” You may feel a little nervous, but don’t let that get in the way of creating a good impression. Turn your nervous energy into enthusiasm.

Pay attention to the interviewer. Treat him as the most important person in the world at that moment. Place your mobile communication device on silent mode, or better yet, turn it off. If you opt to keep it in silent mode and you feel it vibrate, do not answer it. Don’t even look at it. Turning your attention from the interviewer to any device you’re carrying is a sure way to kill your chances of getting the job.

Be confident without being cocky, and relaxed without coming across as fresh. Observe proper posture. Keep your shoulders straight, and lean slightly forward. Don’t lean hard on the chair’s backrest, as this communicates that you’re too at home.

Stay positive. Never, ever say anything negative about a previous supervisor or company. For all you know, your interviewer might know your previous boss, or certain people in that company.

Answer all questions as briefly but as completely as you can. Go straight to the point and include only what’s relevant.

After your interviewer has asked all his questions, he will most likely ask if you have questions of your own. Come prepared with intelligent questions about the company, questions that will demonstrate your interest in the job and that the interviewer will be happy to answer.

After the Interview

After parting ways with your interviewer(s), don’t just wait for them to contact you. You have to further show your interest in the job by sending a letter of thanks. This could be in printed form, or an email. If your interviewer asked for additional documents, send these with your thank you note.

Below is a sample thank you letter:

(receiver’s name)


(company’s name)

Dear Sir,

I would like to thank you for the Job interview and the time we spent speaking about the job position in your organisation yesterday. I hope this small interaction may later translate into a fruitful professional relationship. Please find enclosed a list of references that you requested. I look forward to hearing from you regarding your hiring decision.

I trust you recognized my interest in the (position). I look forward to being part of your team and am confident that I will be able to be a highly efficient team player for making a positive contribution to the team’s goals.

Again, thank you for your time, consideration and for all your efforts to arrange the interview.

Yours sincerely,

(sender’s name)

Your job search may not be easy. In fact, it can be long and arduous, and there are never any guarantees that you will get the job you want. But doing all the right things before, during and after your interview should greatly increase your chances. Good luck!

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