Most people have heard the saying that you only have one chance to make a first impression. When you’re in a job interview, nailing that impression can feel impossible (especially when it’s generally accepted that first impressions are made in 7 seconds or less).
Luckily for healthcare job seekers, it takes hiring managers about 15 minutes to determine whether you’re a good fit for the role, which gives you a few more minutes to connect during your interview and land the opportunity.
While ultimately you need to have the right skills and qualifications for a new position, you’ll also need to impress your interviewer.
Here are ten tips you’ll need to make a great first impression in your next hospital job interview or healthcare job interview.
Although you’ll likely be interviewing with a hiring manager, and potentially with the manager you’ll be working with, they aren’t the only people you’ll be interacting with.
Throughout the process, you might have interactions with a receptionist or administrative assistant, or with other healthcare professionals on the floor.
Make sure to be courteous, kind, and professional to every person you meet, as these people may be asked about the impression they had of you, and you want that impression to be positive.
In addition, if you are interacting with them during a potential tour through the hospital or healthcare facility, you want to demonstrate that you are a respectful and courteous individual.
You want to go above and beyond what the expectations are, but you also want to keep it within reason.
When you only have a few minutes to make an impression, being punctual is crucial. It shows that you’re respectful of the hiring manager’s time, and is a subtle way to show off your time management skills.
According to some career experts and hiring managers, 10-15 minutes early is the ideal time to arrive for an interview.
It's always a good idea to arrive early, because often-times the interviewer will have scheduled several interviews over the course of one day. This allows them to review all their candidates in a shorter timeframe.
In the event that the interviewee before you had a short interview or didn't show up — you can take advantage of that. You can be called in earlier, which means you have more time to elaborate about your qualifications, learn more about the role, and potentially take a tour of the hospital or healthcare facility.
In addition, you will have more time to ask questions or receive more explanation on things that other interview candidates didn't receive because their time was so restricted.
In other words, you want to ensure that you arrive a little bit earlier than the appointment to take advantage of any potential benefits that we outlined above.
Looking polished and professional in an interview is one of the best ways to make a good impression.
While you don’t always need to wear a full suit, this does mean leaving your scrubs at home and opting for a dressier option like a skirt, dress, or nice pants and a shirt.
This gives the impression that you’ll take the job seriously and that you can be counted on to be professional when it matters.
A great way to ensure that you dress properly is to always dress business professional unless the interviewer asked you to dress in a different way.
In some healthcare facilities or hospitals, the healthcare professionals are asked to dress a certain way — and they might provide those dress code regulations for you to review.
In the event that the hospital or healthcare interviewer doesn't provide that information to you, then you should dress business professional and ensure that your outfit is appropriate.
One great way to ensure that you remember to dress appropriately for your interview is to lay out the clothes or outfit you plan on wearing the next day.
Doing so will ensure that you don't have any last minute hiccups in your outfit choice and alleviate some of the stress that you might experience if something were to go wrong with your outfit the following morning.
Planning your outfit and getting it ready the day before will eliminate some of those interview-day jitters, and help you get your day off to a bright start.
Making a good impression isn’t just about what you say — it’s also about non-verbal cues like standing up straight and projecting confidence.
Keeping your body language open (don’t cross your arms, ball your hands into fists, or hunch over in your seat) will help to telegraph to the interviewer that you’re interested, engaged, and trustworthy.
Demonstrate that you want to be there by your body language. Don't slouch in your seat, don't look disinterested, don't look angry, and don't create the impression that you'd rather be doing anything than be at the interview.
As we've mentioned several times throughout this article, your body language is key to creating a positive first impression.
A positive interpretation of your body language will automatically separate you from other candidates who clearly look disinterested. In the competitive job search environment, you should take every opportunity available to you to separate yourself from other candidates.
Shaking hands is your opportunity to project confidence, respect, and happiness to your employer.
A handshake speaks volumes to a potential employer because it combines three different kinds of body language: eye contact, facial expression, and hand touching.
To many people, a limp handshake symbolizes that you’re unsure of the situation, you're nervous, or you don’t have a lot of confidence. In the same regard, you also don't want to have a sweaty handshake. If you are a sweater, sweat is a natural part of nerves but you want to make sure that you wipe your hands before shaking hands with your interviewer.
So when you’re meeting your interviewer, always make eye contact and provide a firm (although not overly firm) handshake.
The last thing you want to do is make them question why they can no longer feel their hand cause you used a death grip in an attempt to showcase your enthusiasm for the job.
If you're nervous about making a good impression through your handshake, practice on some friends or family. It only takes a few minutes to ask them for a favor, practice, and receive positive feedback.
They might also provide you with some other tips or tendencies you can use during your interview.
You might think that you always keep eye contact when you shake hands, but a friend or family member might notice that you tend to look down at your feet first.
As you’re giving your handshake, don’t forget to smile. Giving a genuine smile in an interview can actually boost your chances of landing the job, as you’ll come across as more likable.
That being said, don’t overdo it.
Smiling continuously in an interview can make you come across as incompetent, or unserious, which in a healthcare job or hospital job is never good — where your professionalism and serious attitude is the difference in properly caring for a patient.
So instead, focus on something that you like about the person interviewing, and give them a genuine smile.
If something interests you during the course of the interview that the interviewer mentions, don't be afraid to smile and showcase your excitement about that feature, benefit, or job role.
It's important to remember that the little things go a long way during the course of an interview.
For instance, if the interviewer is explaining the recent commitment that the hospital or healthcare facility has made to staff members by investing in a state-of-the-art training and wellness facility, which comes across better?
A straight face that looks like you're not enjoying your time, or a natural smile that indicates your interest?
Again, you don't want to make it seem as if you're smiling just to smile, or that your smile isn't genuine. You just want to be natural.
Taking the time to introduce yourself in an interview is another way you can make a positive first impression.
Adding a short sentence after your introduction, along with repeating the interviewer’s name can also help you be more memorable.
For example, when you meet someone, say something like “Nice to meet you, [NAME]. I’m [YOUR NAME].” Adding something as basic as “good to meet you” when you’re introduced to someone can help you establish rapport and indicates that you’re interested and engaged.
After the introduction say something positive like, "I'm really excited to learn about the [healthcare job]."
Unless you need your phone or tablet for a presentation, turn off the sound and leave it in your bag or pocket.
Continually checking your phone during an interview isn’t just bad manners, it signals to a future employer that you’re not really interested in being at the interview in the first place.
Although it’s tempting, try to avoid looking at your phone when you’re waiting for the interviewer as well. Even if you’re not playing games or scrolling through social media, interviewers tend to form a more negative impression of you if you’re on your phone when they first see you.
We all get bored before an interview and want to occupy ourselves on our phones — but you should do your best to be patient and avoid talking on or using your phone before the interview.
You want to demonstrate that you are the most qualified candidate and professional candidate from the moment they see you before the interview.
One way to do this is to demonstrate your patience and understanding before the interview. If you're worried about how long you might be sitting there and feel a potential desire to check your phone to look at the time, just bring a watch.
Even though you might not normally carry a watch or wear a watch with you at all times, it is more beneficial to simply check your watch than to appear disinterested and check your phone.
A good way to make a positive impression is by researching the facility in advance.
This can show your interviewer that you’re interested in the role, and also demonstrates that you’re willing to put in the work to fully understand what the hospital or facility is all about.
In addition to providing you with more information about the company and giving you insight into whether you’ll thrive in that specific environment, asking questions is another way you can show the employer that you’re engaged and interested in the role.
While these tips may not make interviewing less intimidating, they can help you make a positive impression on the hiring manager and on your future team.
Chances are though if you’re genuinely interested and excited about the position, the interviewers will be just as interested in hiring you because your body language and enthusiasm will naturally stand out to them.
If you want to learn more about how you can create the best first impression, take a look at our Career Guides.
We offer the most comprehensive guides on how to craft a Resume to secure a hospital job or healthcare job, craft a unique Cover Letter that will help you stand out in your hospital job search or healthcare job search, get ready for that upcoming Interview, and Network with hospital professionals and healthcare professionals to secure future hospital jobs and build your professional network.
About the Author
Molly Powers is the Editorial Manager of Relode, a healthcare recruiting company that uses crowdsourced technology to connect candidates to new opportunities.