Student Success Centre

Making a Good Impression

There’s so much more to succeeding in an interview than simply answering questions well. As an interviewee, you will be evaluated before the actual interview even begins and also after it appears to have ended.  Consider the following sections as integral components of the interview process.

What Makes up your Impression

From the minute you drive into the parking lot or arrive at the interview location keep in mind that you are making an impression with each person you meet. Treat every individual you encounter with respect and professionalism - you never know who will be in the interview room with you or who will be consulted regarding hiring decisions. What are first impressions made up of?

  • 7% is what we say, the words we choose our verbal communication
  • 38% is how we say things, the volume and tone of our voice are vocal communication
  • 55% is our body language, our posture and expressions our nonverbal communication

A good first impression involves more than just your appearance. How you conduct yourself before, during and after your interview plays an important role in creating a lasting impression.

Before the interview begins

  • Show up on time. There is no excuse for being late – not traffic, weather, or delays in public transit.  It is your responsibility to know exactly where the interview will be held and to allow yourself more than enough time to get to the location. You may want to visit the school ahead of time to determine how long it will take you to get there, and depending on your mode of transportation, know where you will park and how much it will cost.  Alternatively, you could plan to arrive extra early and then find a coffee shop nearby where you can relax and then make your way to the interview location about 10 minutes prior to the start of the interview.
  • Greet each person you meet with a smile. This conveys warmth and can make you appear more approachable and even more likeable.
  • Initiate & participate in casual conversations. Engaging in ‘small talk’ can help ease you into the conversation and reduce your nervousness.  Common topics include weather, length of travel, where you’re from, what university you go to, etc.
  • Turn off all mobile devices.

During the interview

  • Introduce yourself with confidence. When you walk into the interview room, greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and make eye contact. Think positive and interact with confidence. Maintain eye contact throughout the interview – it demonstrates confidence and trust, but don’t forget to blink and occasionally divert your gaze! It may feel uncomfortable for you and the interviewer if you just stare at them for the duration of your response.
  • Build rapport. If possible, try to observe the interviewers' communication style and mirror it. If they smile a lot, you should smile often. If not, you should avoid being overly enthusiastic. If they are speaking quietly, try reducing your volume, and vice versa.
  • Slow down. Even though you may be nervous, remember to speak clearly and at an even pace.  Use pauses as a strategy to avoid um’s and ah’s.
  • Remember to notice your non-verbals. Try to avoid playing with your hair or jewellery, crossing your arms, slouching in the chair or leaning over a table, and fidgeting too much. And most importantly - remember to smile!
  • Be yourself and smile! Confidence gained through preparation will help you be yourself.

After the interview

  • Say thank you. When you hear the signal to leave the interview room, remember to stand up, say thank you and shake the hand of the interviewer on your way out.
  • Stay positive.  Despite how well or poorly you think you performed, try to keep a positive attitude until you get home.  Avoid making any negative or judgmental comments to your peers or even over the phone to family, you never know who may hear what you are saying (e.g. talking to someone on your phone about how serious one of the interviewers was or how stupid you thought a question was).

Interview Infographic

Dressing for success

How you dress and your general appearance greatly contributes to making a good impression.  Consider the following points to ensure you are dressing for success.

  • Dress in business formal attire (unless directed otherwise). 
  • Wear neatly pressed clothes, free from stains or tears.
  • Wear shoes that are clean and polished.
  • Make sure that you shower and/or brush your hair before the interview.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Apply deodorant, but do not wear perfumes or colognes (many people have allergies or may not like the scent you wear).
  • Do not chew gum during the interview or smoke beforehand.


How To Dress For Career Success: Tips From Image Expert Erin Miller

Managing Stress and Nervousness

You can manage the stress and nervousness tied to the interview process in a number of ways:

  • Exercise – moderate and regular amounts leading up to the interview.
  • Eat well – consider high protein foods to keep you going throughout the duration of the day, as opposed to carbohydrates which will give you an initial boost but may make you lose energy after only a couple hours.
  • Sleep - establish regular sleeping patterns if you can and try not to stay up late before the interview preparing or partying.
  • Breathing exercises – use abdominal breathing when you find yourself getting anxious.  This can be done when you’re preparing or while you’re waiting to go into the next interview.  This technique will force to you redirect your focus to your breathing and will allow you to “get out of your head”.
  • Visualization – many athletes use visualization and positive imagery to help enhance their performance in a race or game.  Imagine performing with confidence throughout your interviews and delivering excellent responses.
  • Relaxation & meditation

Additional Resources

14 Tips For Staying Calm During A Job Interview

10 top tips for handling interview nerves

Face the Fear: How to Overcome Job Interview Anxiety

Ann Cuddy Video: Your body language shapes who you are

Anxiety Breathing Techniques

How to Overcome Extreme Nervousness During an Interview

How to Deal with Nerves during a Job Interview

How does Stress Affect Performance?