How To Impress a Potential Employer

Tips for Wowing Them Into Hiring You

You can make a potential employer fall in love with you if you do these thirteen things right.
Photo: Kamon Supasawat / Getty Images

Making a good first impression is crucial in the application process. You may only have a few minutes of face-to-face time with a potential employer before they decide whether or not they think you're a good fit for the job. Here are ways in which you can impress a potential employer.

Key Takeaways

  • Use your initial contact with the employer to emphasize why you're the strongest, best-qualified candidate.
  • A quick phone interview is common before the more serious interview rounds.
  • Don't show up late for in-person interviews, dress appropriately, and be polite to anyone you encounter (not just the interviewer).
  • Follow up after the interview with a thank you note.

Apply for Jobs for Which You Qualify

Companies quickly discard applications from unqualified candidates. If you're only applying because it seems like interesting work, but you don't have any actual experience in the field, then your time may be better spent on education or internships.

If you can make the stretch and fit your qualifications and background to the described opening, you have a shot. Cover letters give you an opportunity to make the case for an exception to experience requirements, but you need to be direct and convincing. Many applications get less than 30 seconds of review time. You need to quickly qualify yourself as a potential candidate because the employer doesn't have or take the time to do it for you.

Write a Targeted Cover Letter

Address the targeted cover letter that introduces your key qualifications and highlights your fit with the position to the person conducting the candidate search, when known.

The cover letter needs to specifically mention the available position for which you are applying. Spelling and correct grammar do count. So does the spacing of words on the page, an attractive overall appearance, and the feel of the paper (in a paper resume).

Online applications, which are the norm, must be targeted and formatted appropriately. Pay just as much attention to spelling, grammar, and appearance.


If the potential employer does not state to submit a cover letter, it is optional.

Target Your Resume to the Job

Customization counts. Your resume should specifically mention the job and the skills required rather than vague phrases like "I'm seeking a challenging opportunity to utilize my skills with a progressive employer who will provide growth opportunities." Customization is everything when you are looking at substantially different opportunities, too.


Previous work experience is typically listed in chronological order, but some applicants may instead structure the resume's flow around skills. It's common to combine these two strategies, as well.

Lead With Your Strengths

What makes you different from 40 other applicants? On your customized resume, start with the background and experience most important for the position you seek. The stage of your career is also highly relevant to the placement of information on your resume. If you are just graduating from college, lead off the first portion of the resume with your education and degree.

A seasoned veteran will start with an accomplishment summary with key achievements and then list jobs, titles, companies, and responsibilities chronologically. A network administration applicant should lead with their certifications (such as being a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)) and list software and hardware experience (such as Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server) before listing jobs and education.


You're unlikely to obtain a job offer without a highly effective interview, but the resume can help the reviewer see that you are qualified for the position.

Prepare for Phone Screening 

Employers typically start the process with an initial telephone interview. Be prepared to schedule a date and time, usually during the 8-5 p.m. workday. The phone interview narrows down their list of potential employees. Be prepared for a mini-interview and expect to give the interviewer your salary expectations.


The salary range is typically set with a large number of variables in mind including the local job market and the salaries of coworkers.

Employers can eliminate this problem completely by posting the salary range for the position in their job postings, but not all employers do.

Prepare for the Face-to-Face Interview

If the HR staff member has set up a time with you for a phone interview, research the company in advance. Visit the website to see what the employer does. Many organizations even describe their company culture on their websites. If you take just a few minutes to do your homework, the quality of the interview will go up exponentially.

Think about the HR staff person's time, too, as your potential employer. Research the company location and your driving route before it's time to leave. You don't want to miss your interview because you got lost.

Take Time Off for the Interview

Don't expect the potential employer to extend their day by several hours to accommodate your schedule. If you're currently working and looking for a new position, hopefully, you've chosen the most ethical path and your employer knows. If you are unable to inform your employer, for any reason, hopefully, you've saved up your vacation time to use for your job search.


A recruiting employer is often willing to interview a good candidate late in the afternoon, but rarely will the interview extend far beyond normal working hours.

Dress and Act Appropriately

Remember to treat every person you encounter with dignity and respect. The receptionist is reporting their impressions of you to the HR director. Be unfailingly polite throughout every interaction you have with the company. Each person is assessing your potential fit within their organization. Don't blow your chances by behaving boorishly.

Don't Be Lazy In Your Application

Bring your resume and any other relevant application documents. The filled-out application usually attests to the fact that all of the information you provided on it is true. It also allows the company to obtain your written permission to check your references, do criminal background checks if you are hired, and more.


The job application allows the employer to compare apples to apples. The resume does not.

The First Interview Is About Fit

The actual interview is the subject of additional articles. For purposes of this tip list, remember that the purpose of the interview is to determine if you and the organization are a good fit.

Do you feel confident that you can do the job and grow with the company? Have you conveyed this to the potential employer? If so, they will ask you back for a more intensive second round of interviews at most companies.

Follow the Interview With a Thank You Letter

Good manners always count. Thank you letters or phone calls can keep you in the employer's mind while letting them know you appreciate their time.

The Bottom Line

Doing the right things right will result in more interviews, better job offers, and a more successful career. Take a little more time at each step and your application will rise above the pack.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What should I say to a potential employer in an email?

Your initial contact with an employer should directly and convincingly convey your qualifications. Use language that references the job posting as you let them know which job you're applying for and what experience you have in the area.

How should I reach out to a potential employer after an interview?

If you were primarily communicating via email before the interview, you can follow up afterward with an email. You can include a thank you note, reiterate your interest in the position, and inquire about any further steps.

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  1. Indeed. "How Long Do Hiring Managers Look at a Resume?"

  2. University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Resume Writing Tips."

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