I’ve heard it all…every reason in the book as to why someone should not be hired. Of course, often the skills don’t match or the cultural fit just isn’t there, but first impressions take center stage. Wouldn’t it be foolish to blow the opportunity for your dream job based on a bad first impression? Miss Manners may seem old fashioned and passé, but manners never go out of style. Standards may change with the world, but the basics always stay the same. Common courtesy is always in fashion.

A Simple Thank You

Remember those days as a teenager – maybe after graduation? You get a bevy of gifts and your mother stayed on your case until those thank you cards were signed, sealed and delivered? Take the same approach. People look for thank you’s. Trust me – it is on the hiring manager’s checklist. It is not an option. I have seen the lack of sincere follow-up lose many a job opportunity. It takes 5 minutes to express your appreciation of a busy person taking time from their day to meet with you. Finally, make sure you take note of their personality and company culture to judge whether an email or a handwritten note is going to be most appropriate.

Don’t Show Up Empty-Handed

Heading to an open house at a friend’s new place? Maybe you’ll pick up a bottle of wine – or pick some wildflowers. It is the gesture that counts most of all. When you go to an interview, bring something. Anything. Sample work, a copy of your resume, a portfolio with a blank pad of paper. When you show up with nothing, it creates an air of arrogance. Show you are interested in what they are saying and be ready to jot down key points, names of people you met, anything relevant. It doesn’t matter if you don’t even take the cap off your pen – if you have nothing, it will most likely be looked upon negatively.

Resist the Urge to Gossip

You may have had the worst boss, worked at a completely dysfunctional company or hated the color the office walls were painted. Keep it to yourself. There are subtle ways to get this message across if you really feel like it is justified, but the best option is “don’t go there.” Be positive and talk about what you bring to the table. There is no room for negativity in making a first impression. If you go this route, you’re toast.

Dress Appropriately

This could be a tough one. Depending upon the company environment and culture, as well as personal taste, I have seen this go either way – some like suits, others feel dressing to the nines is over the top. You will have to make the call, but think. Showing up in flip flops and wrinkled shorts is never the way to go – even if you have a friend that works at the company and that’s his choice attire for work. Remember – he already has the job. If you have the opportunity to ask someone inside that can give you some guidance, go ahead and do it. It may feel awkward, but this is a really common question. To me, it shows signs of a candidate that cares and wants to be sure they are on their “A” game. Be on the safe side and choose conservatively. Best thing to do – go in professional (whether that be business casual or suit) and neat. Most important accessory – ENERGY!

On Time Arrival

“Fashionably late” is not a favorable interview tactic. Give yourself enough time to allow for traffic snags, getting lost or whatever could get in your way of being on time. If for some reason you are running late for a justified reason, call the company and let them know. This acknowledgement is better than the apparent arrogance that may come across by just showing up expecting they are going to wait for you. Offer to reschedule at their convenience if unforeseen circumstances get in the way of your scheduled time.

Be Engaging

When you go to a party and someone is holding court, talking only about themselves, their job, their accomplishments, coming across as a know-it-all and seems completely self absorbed, what do you think of them? Yeah – I thought so – time to go back to the bar for another drink. Same principle applies when interviewing – approach it as a conversation. You will need to build a rapport with the people you are meeting. If you give a monologue and go on and on about yourself, barely taking a breath, most people will check out and lose interest. As you are answering their questions, ask questions too. Ask for examples of things they are experiencing and challenges they may be facing. Also – be sure you have done your homework on the company in advance of your meeting so you can talk in context of their company.

You only have the chance to make a first impression ONE TIME so be your best.