First impressions are your first opportunity to show a company who you are and what you will bring to the table. While some things might seem like common sense, you’d be surprised at how often candidates miss the mark.

Five Interview Tips for Candidates

Here are five hot tips to make a good first impression and get the interview off on a good start.

1. Get the details right.

If virtual, confirm you know which platform the interview will take place. If they have a recommended app versus browser version, make sure you do a dry run. PRO TIP: If it’s Zoom, make sure you locate the name you are logging on with for your interview. No need for your XBOX name or your partner’s zoom name to be present for the interview. “HOTDAD12345” needs to be changed… I wish I could tell you I was kidding…but I can’t. (handle changed for the purpose of this article)

2. Set the scene.

Sticking with the virtual theme, check out what’s behind you on camera. If you’re in your bedroom and your bed is in the background, please make it. Tidy it up. A messy bed behind you while you’re interviewing is distracting and off-putting. Pick up around you. PRO TIP: Move to a room with good lighting that has a blank wall behind you.

3. Get the names right.

Being culturally competent in today’s age is a very important interpersonal skill that you should be striving to grow. If there is someone on your interview panel with a name you cannot pronounce or that you are unsure how to say…it’s acceptable to ask in a polite and professional way. Assuming you know and messing it up shows that you aren’t willing to go the extra step to get things right. Names are difficult and when a candidate takes a moment to make sure they are pronouncing someone’s name correctly, that translates into someone who is respectful and would make an excellent teammate. PRO TIP: An example of how to ask: “It’s important to me that I address you with the correct pronunciation of your name, would you mind clarifying for me?”

4. Dress your best.

If your interview is in person, overdress for your first interview. It doesn’t matter what level you are coming in, its important to show that you want the job and have put in some effort for this meeting. I am not here to give you a specific dress code, but taking the interview seriously should reflect your appearance. PRO TIP: Even if they mention prior that the interview is “casual”, they are still expecting you in business casual.

5. Practice makes perfect.

Do a dry run of the interview. The questions are almost irrelevant in a dry run, its how you present yourself that you can practice at home. Go online and look up top 5 most asked questions in an interview. Give them to a friend and ask them to prep with you. It’s silly but having feedback from a friend or someone you trust is invaluable.

Be Prepared to Stand Out – in a Good Way

First impressions can last you well within your first month at a new company/agency. Give yourself a leg up on the competition by coming to the interview prepared and squared away. Let your competition come unprepared. Check out our other articles on how to prep for interview questions.

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NJ has over 10 years inside the DoD working for various organizations and cleared defense contractors. With an ear to the ground on all things OPSEC, cyber, machine learning & mental health, she is an untapped keg of open source information.