As the U.S. economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and the labor market picks up, the economic situation looks more optimistic than in the past year. With more job openings in the market, Americans are applying and eager to score job interviews. According to a recent, study, more than 80% of businesses plan to hire new employees or rehire previously laid off or furloughed workers. Whether you’re picking up the pieces and rebuilding a stronger business or hiring more employees to take your business to the next level, a job interview is one of the many situations where a good first impression is critical, especially if you wish to compete for top talent. 

According to a similar study from Monster, 41% of employers say virtual recruiting has been challenging. And we often read about the need for a candidate to make a strong first impression, there is an equal importance to do so for an employer. The Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found more than half (52%) of interviewers make their decision about a candidate in between five and fifteen minutes of the interview.

This works both ways: candidates make decisions about a potential employer often as quickly as a potential employer makes for a candidate. So, how do you make a lasting impression during the interview, whether in-person or remotely?

Before we get into that, let’s compare the sentiment between small and large businesses. Research shows small businesses have become increasingly popular over the last several decades. While not always able to compete on resources – e.g. salary, health insurance, etc. –  small businesses are often able to offer more flexibility with respect to other benefits which have grown in importance such as paid time off, ability to work remotely, title, responsibilities, etc. 

Small businesses also typically offer fewer levels of management, opportunities for quicker advancement, greater visibility and transparency, more learning opportunities, and unique workplace cultures which are all appealing qualities for a potential candidate. How do you convey the benefits of working for a small business vs. a larger one? It starts with make a great first impression.

According to a recent survey by Yoh, the majority of Americans (62%) prefer to be interviewed in-person versus virtually, if given the chance. However, on the bright side, that leaves more than one-third of Americans preferring a virtual job interview over in-person, and of this group, most attribute their preference to remote interviews allowing them to feel more relaxed. 

Despite many Americans’ skepticism of virtual job interviews, remote hiring is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. And, we know that job interviews are already nerve wracking so adding the extra element of virtual interviews unfortunately makes it more intimidating. However, there are six ways to help ease a candidate’s nerves, sell the job opportunity and leave a great lasting impression so that you, as a business, can attract the best talent.

First and foremost, prior to an interview, find the most efficient way to vet candidates. Depending on the scale of your hiring you may review resumes, have simple software do this for you, or partner with an AI based offering that can streamline this for you. 

Once you’ve decided on paper this individual is a good fit, invite them for a virtual interview. An interview will help you get to know the candidate, as a person, and give them a window into the company so that both parties can begin to figure out if there is a mutual fit. 

Most candidates are nervous before and during an interview, so unless you are specifically testing for the candidate’s ability to operate under stress, consider making them as comfortable as possible. To achieve this, it’s important to build rapport. Arrive early in case they do as well. Generate some small talk prior to the “formal” portion of the interview.  This shows you are genuinely interested in them as a person and getting to know them.

Small talk is a powerful tool to build rapport. It is the glue that connects people and allows candidates to trust you. Remember, you can always follow up with an email after the interview to ask any additional questions, discuss next steps, etc. but a video interview is the best opportunity for you to get to know them and vice versa. 

From a body language standpoint – for both in person and video interviews – maintain an open posture. Other important body language pointers include facing the camera (trying to look at it from time to time, rather than your screen), leaving your hands open, and slightly leaning forward to indicate interest in the candidate’s answers. Consider a real background that is fairly clean.

Too cluttered gives off a disorganized first impression and bare walls don’t allow the other party to connect with you. And, of course, don’t forget to smile! Smiling shows you enjoy people and are glad to meet them; people who smile are seen as kinder and warmer. However, make sure your smile is sincere. 

Hosting and attending interviews can be a timely task. Despite most people preferring an in-person meeting to video, virtual hiring does have many advantages – cost and time being two of the biggest. But, to make the most of video calls, it requires a positive mindset and agenda.

All too often recruiters and interviewers of all types book interviews back-to-back. Consider scheduling them for 45 for 75 minutes so that you have 15 minutes to step away from video and refresh. Zoom fatigue is real and it’s unlikely you will give the last candidate of the day the same chance as the first if you are on video calls the entire day. Then, with those 15 minutes, create an agenda to help guide the conversation.

An agenda gives an impression of someone being organized and helps to keep the meetings on track. This serves to make your time together more efficient and effective, it also put’s the candidate at ease because it shows them you are prepared. It always helps to jot down questions you’d like to ask ahead of time, including some personal questions that are acceptable in an interview and can help fuel the small talk. 

Similar to how hiring managers and recruiters look up candidates on LinkedIn and other places before they speak for the first time, candidates also research the company and who they are interviewing with. Make sure you have a strong positive online presence (this is also key for small businesses to help them stand out against competition!). Consider showcasing a few posts and articles, in addition to the minimums of having a good picture, complete bio, etc. 

Andres Lares is the Managing Partner at SNI. He previously served the role of Chief Innovation Officer. His multi-disciplinary and lingual skills broaden SNI’s ability to effectively teach and consult in a wide range of industries, languages, and cultures. For more on making a lasting impression, feel free to check out SNI’s newest book, Persuade, which will be released on July 7th (

Interview stock photo by Hananeko_Studio/Shutterstock