Making A Positive First Impression

You have one chance to make a positive first impression.  Although there may be some things out of your control, there are a number of things that you can do to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward:


  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early.
  • Turn off your cell phone before you arrive.
  • Dress neatly and cleanly in a business-like fashion.
  • Avoid using too much cologne or perfume, but don't forget deodorant.
  • Pleasantly introduce yourself to everyone you meet and offer a firm handshake.
  • Take job-related documents with you in a portfolio as well as a pen and paper in case notes are required/allowed.
  • Maintain regular eye contact with interviewers without staring them down.
  • Keep your head up, eyes open, and show a smile.
  • Posture and movement: upright with good posture, both standing and seated. Avoid restlessness and excessive movement.
  • Speech: use a moderate pitch and volume. Some variation adds interest and shows enthusiasm. Avoid mumbling, nervous laughter and using the same phrase or word repeatedly.

Appearance Indicates Your Professional Self-Awareness

Personal Grooming

Physical appearance is a key component of a first impression! Hair (including facial hair) should be neat and well-trimmed and don't forget to shower, brush your teeth, apply deodorant and ensure that your nails are neat and clean. As many offices are scent-free now, it is best to avoid heavily scented products, perfumes or colognes.


Business professional attire typically refers to a style of dress which includes a button-down shirt or blouse, dress pants or a skirt and a suit jacket and is considered more formal. Business casual attire is more relaxed and allows for items like blazers, cardigans, and khaki or cotton pants.

Just like your body language, your attire communicates to the interviewer(s) your recognition of the professionalism needed to reflect the organization positively. When choosing clothing for an interview, it is important to think about the image you want to project and consider how it aligns with the type of work environment for which you are interviewing.

For example, roles involving fieldwork will wear outdoor clothing to accommodate varying weather conditions and locations. Wearing items such as gaiters and steel toes will not serve you well at your interview, but business casual, a level above, will. Aim your attire to be more professional than what you might wear daily but, at a minimum, be business casual.

Outfits that are too baggy (or tight), contain short hemlines, low necklines, shorts, yoga pants, t-shirts, jeans, and inappropriate footwear such as athletic shoes or flip flops are best avoided. Additionally, the clothing you choose needs to be in good condition. It is best to decide on your interview attire a few days before the interview so that you have time to wash or dry clean it if necessary.

Additional helpful tips for choosing clothing can be found online from a variety of articles:

Business Professional Attire vs. Business Casual Attire

What is Business Casual for Women?

Business Casual Attire for Men

General Neutral Interview Attire and Business Clothing