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Leaving a Lasting Impression: How to Wrap Up an Interview

25/09/2015 11:59 BST | Updated 24/09/2016 10:12 BST

A lot of interview advice centres around the importance of making a good first impression. By now, you've probably got the basics covered - arrive 10 minutes early, dress to impress and don't forget that firm handshake.

But what about the final moments of your interview?

Making a good last impression might be more important than you think. According to Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, when we remember a past experience, our memory of it is disproportionately influenced by the final moments - a psychological bias he calls the peak-end rule.

So, aside from their first, intuitive sense of an applicant, the next most likely thing an interviewer will recall about a candidate will be those crucial final moments of the interview. This means how you finish your interview, and follow up afterwards, can make or break your candidacy. Don't worry though, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure your efforts wow the interviewer and win them over.

Here are some tips to help you make a great final impression:

Prepare questions

At the end of the interview, your interviewer will typically turn the tables and invite you to ask some questions of your own. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity. If you fail to ask any questions, at best you'll seem disinterested and unprepared, and at worst less intelligent than rival candidates. Instead, approach this as a great opportunity to leave a strong and long-lasting impression on your interviewer.

Take the chance to show off your research and knowledge of the company. Jot down a list of five or six short, straightforward questions a few days before your interview. You probably won't get to ask them all, but it's best to have more prepared than you'll need - the conversation could take you in a number of directions.

Make sure you avoid any questions that could cast you in a negative light. For instance don't mention salary, you should probably have read this in the job description. And asking about the company policy for browsing Facebook at work is most likely a no... unless of course you're interviewing at Facebook.

Master the art of the 'close'

There's a lot of debate among experts about the best approach to ending an interview. Chief among these is whether you should try to 'close the sale' during the final stages.

There's absolutely no harm and plenty of benefit in telling your interviewer how interested you are in the position and providing a couple of points to explain why you think you're a great fit - but be sure you keep it professional. Something succinct and straightforward is generally a good option:

"Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me today. Based on our discussion, this sounds like just the sort of position I am looking for. I believe my background and skills would be a great fit and could really benefit your organisation. I'd love to join the team, if you'll have me."

You might want to jazz up this basic close by complimenting the company or giving an example of a previous accomplishment that makes you a particularly strong candidate - as always keep an eye on those cues coming from across the table.

Don't leave without...

Before you leave, make sure you ask what the next steps in the interview process are, and when you can expect to hear back. If you have established a good rapport with the interviewer you might even consider asking them to connect on LinkedIn. But beware, if the process has been more formal, this could come across as awkward or pushy - it's a tricky one and you'll need to judge the situation for yourself.

Finally smile, give the interviewer a firm handshake and thank them for their time. Don't forget to give a warm goodbye to the receptionist on the way out.

The thank-you note

Now you've wrapped up your interview and you're out of the office building it's time to relax, right? Well, not quite yet - first of all you need to master the thank-you note.

There's really no doubt you should send one - it certainly won't hurt your chances of securing the job, and it's a sure-fire way to stand out from the crowd and reinforce that all-important last impression.

So now that you know you definitely need to send one, what should you write?

A well-crafted email thanking the interviewer for their time, restating your enthusiasm and a couple of reasons why you think you'd excel in the position is all that's needed. Remember though, be concise. Your interviewer is a busy person and this isn't another cover letter.

For more guidance on the best ways to wrap up an interview (plus a few ways you shouldn't), take a look at my book Why You: 101 Interview Questions You'll Never Fear Again.

Good luck,

James