Make a Great First Impression With These 8 Steps

People often get first impressions of others- like judging a book by its cover, a restaurant by the pictures on its menu and even cities or whole cultures by the first person they meet from that city or culture. Although it is human nature to make judgments at first sight, there is a way for you to get ahead of that reflex.

If you break down the different phases of approaching your interview, you’ll find that there are 8 key steps to mastering your first impressions:

1. Appearance
Before you even make it to the campus, prepare yourself by making sure your appearance is appropriate.  You should dress in a way that evokes a sense of confidence and approachability.  You want to be seen as approachable, professional, serious, but also as a people person.  When choosing your interview outfit, you’ll want to choose business casual attire with a touch of fun.  This could be a pastel or light colored shirt with your suit or a fun accessory like jewelry or a pin.  The idea is to look professional, approachable, and memorable.  If you can find an outfit that hits all three of these points, you’ll walk into your interview feeling confident and that will show!

2. Attitude
Before you walk into the interview room, check your attitude.  You want to appear confident with a touch of lightheartedness, but not too cocky or casual.  Try cracking a big smile just before walking through the door or saying the word “bing” to yourself (doing this leaves your mouth and face in a general smiling position).   If just making the motion of a smile isn’t enough to overcome your nerves, try thinking of the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you or someone you know.

3. Mantra
Having a positive mantra can help you overcome interview anxiety.  Try saying “yes, yes, yes” to yourself (either internally or out loud if appropriate) to bring yourself into a positive headspace.  You can also find a positive quote or affirming statement that works for you.  If you can anchor yourself with a positive mindset before walking into the interview room, it’ll be much harder for any anxiety or self-doubt to impact your interview performance.

4. Eye Contact
The phrase “don’t look down” doesn’t just apply to a fear of heights.  If you walk in to your interview with your eyes to the floor, you’ll project that you’re lacking self-confidence.  You should be smiling and making eye contact the moment you walk into the room.  Approach and greet the nearest person to you and note the color of their eyes as you shake their hand- this ensures that you’ve made solid eye contact for the appropriate length of time and shows that you’re confident enough to look each and every one of them in the eye.

5. Open Body Language
Try to reduce any closed body language during your interview.  Crossing your legs or arms, putting your hands in your pockets, not unbuttoning your jacket, or doing anything that makes you seem closed off can impact how your interview committee perceives you.  Try to have your body language mimic your attitude- open, warm, friendly.

6. Keep Your Hands Visible
Hiding your hands in your pockets, under the table, or in your lap can subconsciously trigger a threatening response in your interview committee.  If you find that you clasp your hands subconsciously, try to break that behavior by gesturing with your dominant hand as you talk.  If your hands aren’t visible, there’s a good chance your exhibiting closed body language.

7. Opening Question or Statement
During your initial tour of the school or open house session, make note of something interesting or positive about the building, students, or program.  You’ll want to lead off with this “fun-fact” as it shows that you’re personable and a good conversationalist, and it also develops a sense of rapport with your interview panel right away.  It also “breaks the ice” and softens the general atmosphere in the room before diving into the main interview questions.  Whatever your fun fact or question may be, just make sure you keep I lighthearted.

8. Synchronize
Try to match the vocal tone and body language of whoever you’re speaking with.  This subconsciously shows that you’re observant but also allows you to interact with each individual in a way that’s comfortable and familiar to them.  When addressing a group, try to adopt each person’s tone of voice and body language as you speak to each one of them.