First impressions are a major part of any relationship, including professional relationships. A first encounter, which may last no longer than a just few seconds, sets the tone and a bad one can be very difficult to get over. For job seekers, a first impression can make or break your chances of getting the job you want.

A good first impression shouldn’t require changing who you are. It does call for a bit of self-awareness and some self-reflection. You have to know your most appealing qualities, so you can concentrate on them, and also know your bad habits so you can minimize them. In addition, knowing yourself, there are some basic steps you can take to boost your odds of making a good first impression.

In the resume and cover letter

First impressions are typically associated with face-to-face meetings but resumes and cover letters can also make a good first impression.

To begin with, both your resume and cover letter ought to look good. Stuffing every detail in to a resume without small margins and small type will make it look cluttered. Instead, use white space and a second page, or cut material, if you have information that must be included but doesn’t fit onto a single page. Your cover letter should be three to four short paragraphs. Use the same letterhead, font and paper on both documents.

Addressing the receiver with a name and courtesy title, such as Ms., in your cover letter makes a strong and personal first impression. Begin with a dynamic first paragraph that is customized to the job and gets your enthusiasm across, as opposed to a generic paragraph plucked from the internet.

In the interview

Making a solid impression at the interview starts with being prompt; being on-time or about 10 minutes early. Plan on arriving 10 minutes early, as this makes room for sudden, unexpected delays. If you do get there early, you can get settled in your environment.

It’s also crucial to dress the part to make a good first impression. You will be evaluated on your attire, so you have to put thought into it. For office jobs, you ought to wear a suit that isn’t too brightly colored or revealing. For jobs that entail a great deal of manual labor, a button-down dress shirt and trousers are appropriate.

Proper grooming is also crucial. Your hair ought to be styled conservatively, fingernails should be trim and clean, and your breath ought to be fresh. Wearing a fragrance is okay, in a limited amount.

During the interview itself, you should attempt to maintain good posture and be mindful of everything that is said to you. It’s also essential to maintain eye contact: A good guideline is to look into the other person’s eyes long enough to see the color of their eyes.

A professional handshake is also essential in making a solid first impression. Your handshake ought to be firm, but not bone-crunching. You also don’t want to give a limp, dead-fish handshake. Practice shaking hands with a friend and ask for suggestions.

At HCR, we regularly coach professionals on how to best apply for a job. If you’re currently looking for job search assistance, please contact us today.


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