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First Impressions and Interviewing

by Robin Ogden

How to dress for an interview


It’s true; before you even open your mouth to say a word you’ve already made an impression on the person you are interacting with.  It happens that quickly, in a flash the other person has basically summed you up – did you make the cut?

You may say, “Who cares?”  But, believe it or not studies show that the first impressions can be a real showstopper when it comes to interviewing for a new job, let alone moving ahead in an organization or fitting in with the corporate culture. 

Let’s take a moment to think of  “impression” from your perspective, remembering that you are continually making first impression judgments yourself.  You’ll walk into the employer lobby and immediately begin making decisions on how it looks and feels there and what you think overall.  Comfortable?  Casual?  Is it a welcoming environment or cold and stuffy? Perhaps it’s too formal for you?  The receptionist may be next for you and you’ll be making even more impression decisions.  Is he/she friendly?  Rude?  Over the top?  Dressed weird? Welcoming and inviting, or not?  The point here is that “you” are also continually making first impression judgments and need to remember that it works both ways.


How to make a great first impression through interview attire


Let’s focus on how you can make a winning first impression with your interviewer.  Since you won’t get a second chance to make a first impression it will be important for you to get the scoop on the corporate culture before you ever enter the lobby.  And, with all the outside information available these days’ employers will expect that you have done your homework ahead of time.  You’ll need to check with anyone you may know who works there, or who may have worked there previously, to find out how the employees dress on a daily basis.  And, if your contacts have interviewed people before for that particular company, what was expected as far as interview attire.   If you really have no leads into the company and don’t even know anyone that does business with the company then be sure to check with the Human Resources department.  They will normally be happy to give you information on culture and interview attire.  Some companies would find it very odd if you show up in a three-piece suit, where as others would expect such attire.  It depends on the position you’re interviewing for.  So, give yourself a break, stop guessing and check it out.


Once you’ve got the skinny on what to wear you’ll want to focus on the items you will takenew grad audio with you.  This may sound funny, but imagine for a minute someone who shows up in a three-piece suit for an interview and then carries his or her notepad and extra resumes in a manila folder or brown oversized envelope.  You get the idea.  It ruins the whole professional look.  So, always be sure that what you carry has a professional look to it.  Spend the extra effort to get a leather portfolio to carry your items in, whether you interview in a suit or not.  Take a few minutes to upgrade your pen, carry “white” notepad paper, extra resumes and a formalized typed page of your references/employer contacts.  These are all little things that can add up to a big impact on how your potential employer rates your first impression. 


Don’t live in a vacuum


Your own opinion is just that – your own.  Try actually doing a “dress rehearsal”.  Dress the part and ask for the opinion of others that you respect.  Doing this advanced prep will help you to address any items you may have forgotten, allow you to take other opinions into consideration and help to build your confidence around your first impression.  This is also a great time to try out the infamous handshake and get opinions on your grip.

Although experience will certainly be a factor in your job interview it is very important to remember that if you don’t pull off a good first impression your interviewer may not view your experience in the same way. 




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