How to make a great impression in a job interview

Interview tips

By: Jennifer McMillen Smith, MSSA, LISW-S, Division of Infectious Disease and medically reviewed by Ann Avery, Infectious Disease Physician at Metrohealth Medical Center

When you apply for a job or send somebody your resume, they can see your qualifications, skills, education, and experience. It looks great on paper.

The job interview, however, is real life. You have to look your interviewer in the eyes and convince them to hire you and not somebody else. And it’s not just a matter of what you say; it’s how you say it.

Making a great impression on your interviewer is a big part of winning the job. Interviewers are just like the rest of us: They make snap judgments based on small details and start making up their mind about you very early in the conversation.

Mind you, snap judgments don’t have to be bad. Interviewers can make positive snap judgments about you — so be prepared to wow them with your awesomeness!

These tips should help you make a great impression in a job interview.

Get the facts about the job

Get the facts on the company and the job

The average job seeker emails a resume and cover letter or fills out an application and hopes for best.

The people who get offered an interview jump on Google and start researching what the company does. How do they make money? Who are their customers? What does it take to keep the customers happy? What is the job like?

Let’s say you’re applying for a helpdesk support job. Go online and search on something like, “What’s it like to have a helpdesk support job?” Websites like can help you figure out how much the job might pay.

Doing this research pays off in the interview because you can show you really care about the company and the people it serves. You can say things like, “I notice from your website that you serve international clients. That fascinates me.”

Be prepared interview tips

Arrive prepared

People who apply for jobs as graphic artists, website designers, or writers usually bring a portfolio that shows the interviewer the kind of work they have done before.

People who show up without a portfolio make a poor impression.

A portfolio helps prove someone can do the job they’re applying for. But let’s say you’re applying for a job driving a forklift in a warehouse. There’s no portfolio for that, right? But if you have any certifications for running machinery or repairing equipment, you might think about bringing copies of the certificates along.

When you’re researching the job you’re applying for, try to find out what you must have during the interview. It might be things like proof of identification or a list of previous employers or former bosses. Also, bring extra copies of your resume and references.

Arriving prepared makes an excellent impression because it shows you can pay attention to detail and take extra care to do the job right.

dress for success interview tips

Dress for the job you want

If the job requires wearing a suit, then you should wear a suit to the interview. Even if people dress less formally at the job, it’s usually a good idea to not dress casually for an interview. Show your possible new employer that you care about being professional.

Avoid the urge to wow them with your fashion sense — unless you’re applying to be a model or fashion designer. No matter how great your bod is, don’t wear a revealing top. Sorry, no jeans, T-shirts, or sandals.

While it’s important to be yourself, don't overdo it with jewelry, hats, and other accessories. And lay off on the perfume or aftershave lotion. It can be distracting — and somebody might even be allergic to it.

Sometimes even an entry-level office job can require a suit or dress clothes. Don’t fret if you cannot afford to buy a new outfit. The organization Dress for Success helps low-income people find the right clothing for job interviews.

Some companies have a “business casual” policy that isn’t as uptight as you’d find in a ritzy law office. When you’re doing your research, find out about their dress code.

Arriving in clothes that match the company dress code is another way to make a great impression.

Be on time

Get there on time

Try to arrive about 10 to 15 minutes early. As the popular saying goes, “Arriving on time is arriving late.” If you have any doubt about the location, go there in advance to scout out the route and find a place to park if you’re driving. Watch for traffic jams and pay attention to the time of your appointment. If you have to be there early in the morning or late in the afternoon, traffic can make you run late.

If you find yourself running late for an interview, call ahead and let them know what’s going on.

You’ll be expected to arrive at your job on time. Doing the same for your job interview will impress your interviewer.


Come join our private, stigma-free, supportive community.

Health management tools with medication & appointment reminders.
Social networking in a community conversation & private chats.


Turn your cell on silent

You might need your phone in the interview to check something online, but you don’t want your fun ringtone to embarrass you right in the middle of an interviewer’s question. Think about bringing your phone but turning off the ringer.

Be honest interview tips

Prepare for questions

An interview is a two-way street: They ask you questions, and you ask them questions.

Aim to show smarts on both sides of this street. You can do that by providing honest, thoughtful replies to their questions. You also need to think up sincere, savvy questions to ask them.

They will want to know how you approach things like helping customers and resolving conflicts. You’ll probably be asked for your goals. Give these some thought before you arrive.

Make sure you ask about:

  • Work schedule: Will you be working days, nights, weekends, etc.?
  • Working conditions: It’s good to know about what daily life may look like, especially any hazards.
  • Required uniforms, clothing, or equipment: Find out what the dress code is and if you’ll need to pay for a uniform.
  • Pay: Asking about pay right away can makes you seem like you’re just in it for the money and not what you can offer the company; try to put this off until later in the interview.
  • Benefits: Talk about fringe benefits like paid time off, healthcare, holidays, training, and other benefits.
  • Family issues: If you need flexibility to get your kids to school on time, make sure you mention this.

Be polite interview tips

Remain calm, friendly, and polite

Your body language needs to say, “I’m somebody you want to work with.”

Don’t slouch and try not to cross your arms across your chest — it can make you look stand-offish.

Greet everybody with a smile and always stay calm and polite, even when they ask tough questions that you may feel defensive about.

Here’s the point of staying so positive: Doing something negative gives them a perfect excuse to hire somebody else. Don’t give them that excuse.

Make an impression interview tips

Remember, the job is about them, not you

When you apply for a job, you can’t help but think, “What’s in this for me, anyway?”

The trouble is, that’s not how your interviewer thinks.

Interviewers have one thing on their mind: “My company has a job to do. How can you help us make that happen?”

Making a great impression in the interview helps them arrive at the obvious conclusion: You’re the one person who can get the job done.

Related Blogs:






Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative.
Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.