Eight Tips to Make a Stellar First Impression at your PA School Interview

You never get a second chance at making a first impression. Just like judging a book by its cover or a restaurant by its pictures on Yelp, people often judge each other immediately upon meeting.  If we apply this to the PA school application process, this means you’ll be judged as an applicant the moment you walk into the interview room.  To help maximize your first impression, you first need to identify what aspects people focus on when forming an opinion about a person they don’t know.

The following items comprise the Eight Stages of Approach, a foolproof list of attributes we use as the criteria for evaluating another person. To ensure you make a memorable first impression on interview day, you’ll want to focus on each of these items individually before interview day.

Eight Stages of Approach

  1. Appearance
    When in doubt, dress like you’re the most confident and approachable person in the room.  You want to come across as professional but also be seen as a real human being.  Consider adding a pop of color to an otherwise dull outfit, or accessorizing in a unique way that shows off your personality. If you have an article of business wear that makes you feel great, try to incorporate this piece of clothing into your outfit. You’re not interviewing to work in a bank, so let your personality come through in your appearance!
  2. Attitude
    Just before your interview, give yourself an attitude adjustment and do everything you can to leave your stress at the door.  It helps to think of the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you right before you walk in the room. Whatever your go-to memory may be, try to think of a time when you felt a combination of confidence, relaxation, and fun- then channel it!
  3. Mantra
    Just before you enter the interview room, repeat to yourself “yes, yes, yes!”  Whether you say it out loud or repeat it in your head, this mantra will make you feel more confident and might bring a smile to your face.  If you enter the room with a positive mental state and a smile, your interviewers will subconsciously pick up on this and respond accordingly.
  4. Eye Contact
    The moment you walk in the room, approach the nearest person to you.  Note the color of their eyes as you greet them. This ensures solid eye contact and gives you a confident action to take as soon as you enter the room.  A lack of eye contact can evoke insecurity or insincerity, so be sure to establish eye contact with each person in the room.

  5. Body Language
    As you approach a person you’re meeting, turn slightly to the left.  This subtle positioning indicates an openness and trustworthiness because you’re essentially opening up your heart to them.  Make sure you stand up straight, walk with confidence, and keep a fluid and relaxed posture.  If you wore a jacket or blazer, unbutton it before you take a seat.  This will make you a bit more relaxed and can act as another gesture of openness and comfort.
  6. Keep Your Hands Visible
    It might sound strange, but you want to keep your hands visible whenever possible.  This small action eliminates the subconscious fight or flight mechanism by showing you have nothing threatening in your hands.  This will also prevent you from exhibiting poor body language such as having your hands in your pockets, crossing your arms, or folding your hands.  Use open gestures, such as extending a full open hand when pointing rather than using a single finger.
  7. Be Proactive
    You should have an opening question or statement ready rather than waiting for a prompt.  The subject should be something lighthearted, such as something you noticed on the tour of the school or something interesting about the building or campus in general.  Starting off with a lighthearted remark establishes a sense of parity and highlights your confidence- just make sure to keep it short and sweet, otherwise it might seem like you’re stalling.
  8. Synchronize
    You should synchronize your body language and tone with the person to whom you are introduced or speaking.  This doesn’t mean you should directly mimic them, but rather communicate with each person in a way that closely resembles their communication style.  Pay attention to tone of voice, body language, speaking cadence, and word choice- all of these may help determine how you choose to operate.

Some of these actions will take time to get used to, so practice with acquaintances or coworkers to get more comfortable applying them in real time.  If you keep these 8 aspects in mind, you’re guaranteed to make a great first impression that will ease your stress and anxiety on interview day!