Making a great first impression

by Anita Manuel, Career Counselor

I was recently interviewing candidates for an internship program and was reminded of the characteristics which help make a great first impression. As we gear up for the upcoming career/internship fair (Career Expo, 2/24 noon-5pm, event center) it is time to help students and new graduates put their best foot forward to get that coveted invitation for an interview and secure a job or internship.

Top 5 tips to market yourself successfully:

1. Dress to impress. You can instantly look like a confident professional by dressing the part. For men, this means a conservative two piece suit or khakis and a long sleeved shirt; and, for women, this means a suit or appropriate length skirt (knee length) with a clean blouse and short heels.
2. Fresh breath (bring mints). Yes, I’m serious. We get this feedback from employers often…nothing can kill a conversation like bad breath. You may have the best introduction, skills or experience for a position, but who will care if they can’t focus on what you’re saying because your breath is distracting? Bring mints and be careful of what you eat before attending the fair.
3. Do your research! Who will be at the job fair? What positions are you best suited for? Which company is the best match for your skills, values and experience? If you can not answer these questions, then you have not done enough research for the upcoming fair. Take advantage of checking out the employer list and open positions on the career center website before attending the fair ( > job fair list (employers, positions & majors)
4. Stellar pitch. What’s your pitch? You will have perhaps 60 seconds to introduce yourself to an employer and make them want to learn more about you. Be sure to say your name, major, and position of interest. Outline your top three skills/traits as they relate to the position and give an example (class project, previous internship or work) of how you’ve used these traits. Ask questions and show that you’ve done your homework about the company (“ I read on your website…, I was impressed with your recent article in Time Magazine…I really love your product and use xyz software in my courses”)
5. Smile, make eye contact and have a good handshake. The ability to express confidence and positivity impact your interactions. Remember that recruiters are standing on their feet for hours and talking to hundreds of students. It’s always refreshing and much more enjoyable to meet with someone who has positive energy and is excited about the possibility of working for their organization. A smile, firm handshake and eye contact are non-verbal cues which can help your chances of making a great first impression.

Still feel like you need some more tips and practice?

Be sure to attend one of our “Job Fair Success Workshops”  or if you have attended before brush up with our online slides.

Anita Manuel, M.A.                                                          Program Manager, SJSU Career Center                      

Anita has worked in the career counseling and higher edcuation field for the past eight years.  She has worked in human resources and the recruiting field as well as internship program management for higher education.  She works directly with students and specializes in developoment of creative programs to support career education.


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