Career Services

First Impression Factors

Employers make judgements and form opinions of candidates within the first minute of an interview. You never get a "second chance to make a first impression." It is essential to present yourself in a neat, business-like and professional manner. What you look like and how you say something are just as important as what you say. Studies have shown that 65 - 70% of the conveyed message is nonverbal; gestures, physical appearance and attire are highly influential during job interviews.

  • What to Wear: When you are neatly groomed and appropriately dressed you create a favorable impression. Distracting jewelry, nail polish, make-up or perfume should be avoided. In fact, with so many people having allergies, it is recommended that no perfume or cologne is worn. Overall be immaculate. A good appearance reinforces your many positive attributes.


Your appearance makes a statement. By looking neat and clean you give the impression that you take pride in yourself and your work. And just the opposite is true. If you look like a slob, they will assume you are a sloppy worker.

Don't underestimate just being clean. Make sure you have showered, washed your hair, used deodorant, brushed, flossed and used mouthwash. Avoid any garlic for at least a few days prior to the interview.

Something as simple as a female wearing pants instead of a skirt, or a man with earrings can make the difference in the selection process. It may not seem fair, but your job at this point is to put yourself in as favorable a position as possible. (Clothing Guidelines)

  • Be Courteous and Friendly: Make allies of everyone. Be courteous to everyone along the way, including the receptionist and the secretary. They can make a difference in the hiring decision.
  • Be Punctual: Your first opportunity to make a favorable impression on the interview is to be punctual. Never be late for an interview! Try to arrive early enough to allow time to check your appearance, collect your thoughts, etc. If for some unavoidable reason you will be late, be certain to call ahead. Upon arrival for your interview, greet the employer's receptionist or secretary courteously and with respect. Remember, first impressions really count!
  • Handling Introductions: The introductions between you and your interviewer are important in getting the interview started on a positive note. Greet your interviewer with a smile, a firm handshake and direct eye contact. Wait for the interviewer to invite you to be seated. The interview will generally begin with a social comment about the weather or such to put you at ease. Expect it and react in a normal, cordial fashion. Be sure to note your interviewer's name and pronunciation and use it during the interview.
  • What to Bring: Always carry extra copies of your résumé to the interview. If you have updated your résumé for the specific job for which you are interviewing, carry along the revised version and give it to the employer. In addition, you may want to bring along a copy of your academic transcript or a typewritten listing of all the courses you have completed. An increasing number of interviewers are interested in determining the actual courses you have taken, and many will ask you to provide them with this information. Check with the Registrar's Office to obtain a copy of your academic record. If appropriate (as in the case of advertising, art, or education), bring a portfolio containing samples or illustrations of your work. It is also a good idea to carry a typewritten list of your references, which indicates their names, titles, addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses.
  • How to plan when travel is required: Typically, the employer expects to pay for all legitimate expenses incurred by you in connection with a visit. "Legitimate expenses" are defined as those which are necessary to get you there and back, covering the basic items of transportation, food and lodging. If you are uncertain as to who is expected to pay for interviewing expenses, do not hesitate to ask the employer. You do not want to be strapped with unexpected expenses.


Seek reimbursement only for the actual expenses of your trip. Do not include entertainment or personal expenditures. Should you visit other firms on the same trip you should prorate your expenses among them. Reimbursement policies vary. Some employers return an applicant's funds the same day, while others take several weeks to mail a check. Make sure you get and keep receipts for hotel and travel costs. They are normally required before reimbursement can be made. Keep your receipts organized and with you. If you do not already have a credit card, you may want to acquire one before any travel plans are made.

With the employer's authorization, select the most convenient means of transportation. If you drive a car to the company show your complete route and round trip mileage: include airport limousine service, buses, trains, and taxis.

Be conservative about meal expenditures. How you spend an employer's funds on an interview trip is a good indication of how you might spend those funds as an employee. Costs should cover meals with tax, and should be listed on a daily basis. Some employers set no limits but rely on your good judgment. Although geographic location will cause figures to vary, these maximum expenditures should serve as a general guideline: Breakfast $8.00, Lunch $12.00 and Dinner $25.00.

Contact your travel agency or use the company's travel agency if asked to do so. Specify the day of the week as well as the date to avoid confusion. Check several days prior to your trip to confirm your travel plans (flights may be changed without notification).

Check in at the airline counter at least 2 hours prior to the scheduled departure. Your baggage will be checked through to your final destination. If you have a close connection to make, consider carrying your luggage with you (if this is not possible, make sure that you have any information necessary for your interview. Dress appropriately for interviewing when traveling (you may not have time to change clothes or freshen up upon arrival). Contact an airline representative immediately if your baggage is delayed. Lock and plainly mark your baggage with your address, inside and out.

If your flight is delayed for any reason or if you have missed connections for a flight, you should contact a ticket agent for assistance. The airline personnel will get you on your way as quickly as possible. Be sure to call the employer to inform him or her of your delay and your expected time of arrival.

When formulating travel plans for the interview trip, be certain to obtain the following information.1. Will someone meet you at the airport, or should you go directly to the hotel or the organizations office?2. What is the best mode of transportation (limousine, taxi, bus, train) for you to use?3. Has a hotel/motel reservation been made for you? 4. Is the reservation in your name?5. What is the name and address of the hotel?

Complete a Reconnaissance Mission: When possible, a visit to the company or school will lower your anxiety and enable you to observe the dress, atmosphere and mood of the company firsthand. It will also give you a general idea of how much travel time you will need to get there, if there are parking issues, and where in the building you need to go.

Missing classes for interviews: When it is necessary for you to miss classes because of interview trips be sure to notify your instructors prior to going.

The Interview: Responding to Questions

The majority of the interview time is typically devoted to the employer asking you questions. Try to discern what an employer is really asking you. What are the underlying questions? For example, if an employer asks what qualities you think are important for someone in the position you are applying for, he or she probably really wants to know whether you have given thoughtful consideration to the skills and abilities necessary to succeed within his or her organization.

Put yourself in the employer's frame of reference and respond as directly as possible. Your objectives are to put your candidacy in the best possible light and alleviate any reservations the employer may have about your suitability for employment. Be yourself and focus on your positive qualities.

If there are periods in your past that are difficult to explain, do not dwell on them. Respond to your interviewer's inquiries honestly, indicating what you have learned from your mistakes. Take responsibility for your past actions, and do not blame others. If something in your past is indicative of poor judgment, try to give examples of more recent things you have done that show good judgment.

  • Sample Interview Questions: Interviewers are making comparative judgments as they screen numerous candidates. Therefore, they tend to ask questions which will best help them to differentiate candidates from one another. As was mentioned earlier, try to determine what the interview is really asking and what the heart of the question is before responding. Avoid the pitfall of rushing into an answer without first thinking through your response.

Dealing with Illegal Questions

There are certain questions that cannot be asked of applicants without threatening their equal opportunity for selection. Several federal laws protect equal opportunity in the workplace. In general, questions are considered legal when they relate directly to the applicant's ability to perform the responsibilities. They are illegal when they probe into areas unrelated to job performance. The latter include any dealing with race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy, or health issues unrelated to work.

If you are asked any of the above questions, what you will want to consider is, could it have been an honest mistake. Becoming defensive about a question may not put you in the best position. First, you want to be selected. Then you can decide if you want to accept.

Asking the Questions

As well as the questions asked of you during employment interviews, you will also be evaluated on the basis of the questions you ask. Your questions should reflect a sincere interest in the organization and an awareness of the employer's needs and how you can fulfill them. Questions relating to salary and benefits or financial aid should normally be avoided during initial screening interviews. Don't scare off an interviewer by seeming to be overly concerned about salary, benefits, vacation time, assistantships, etc.

Ask the questions which are more important and relevant to you as you consider a particular employment opportunity. Avoid asking questions which are adequately covered in the recruiting literature most companies provide. Also, if the interviewer appears pressed for time, do not prolong the interview by trying to fit in all your questions. There will probably be time to ask further questions before you need to respond to an offer.

Keep in mind that you are interviewing the organization as well as they are interviewing you.

Concluding the Interview

Most interviewers will conclude the interview by indicating when you could expect to receive further word on your status as an applicant. However, if this information is not volunteered, be certain to ask. This will help you to follow up your interviews within a reasonable time frame. When employers are interviewing numerous applicants, your follow-¬up efforts will help distinguish you from the other, less conscientious applicants. As a means of facilitating this follow-up process, ask the interviewer for one of his or her cards, and keep it handy for future reference. If the employer does not have a business card, be certain to write down his or her full name, title, address, and phone number for your records immediately after the interview.

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