I’ll be honest. I can tell pretty quick whether you are likely a good fit for a job. I can predict a successful job interview.
And I can tell in the first 5 minutes.
If that sounds unfair, wrong or short-sighted then you need to remember that we are all human. And that we all react very quickly to a variety of stimuli. Many of them are ones that we cannot even identify. Just a feeling but one that stays with you all the way to the group meeting where the candidate’s fate is decided.
So even if I am not consciously aware of all the stimuli, I will tell you that there are things that I am conscious of and do look for in the first 5 minutes. You know what they say about a good first impression, right?
So, whether this is exactly right or not, here’s the truth from my viewpoint. As an interviewer over twenty years and as a job seeker on the other side of the desk.
Your approach is important. The way you walk and carry yourself. The way you communicate with whoever is guiding you to my office matters. I am looking for confident but not full of yourself. Friendly but not too comfortable. If you are tentative on the way in, that’s a problem. It’s important that you act as if you deserve to be there.
Look nice. No frayed shirts. No twisted neck ties. Shine your shoes. New, clean coat. Should be obvious. Be hydrated. Dry mouth helps no one. The presentation of you as a candidate starts with how prepared you look. How you speak.
Your handshake says something.
We all know this, right? So why are there so many bad handshakes
? A confident, inviting smile tells me you are relaxed.
That helps everyone else relax. Immediate and consistent eye contact.
Introduce yourself to me. Now I know how to pronounce your name and you get a chance to say it with pride. It tells me you are engaged and ready. You are not sweating or breathing hard.
It says you got there early and had plenty of time to check in and rest your legs.
Say “thank you” for the opportunity and grab a seat once I do. Thank you? Sure, why not? I had a lot of people to choose from in that stack of resumes. Oh, and everybody likes to hear it. Tell me something that lets me know this is an important interview and that you are excited for the opportunity. Not desperate. Appreciative.
Engage in a little light banter before my questions begin. Have a few intro questions to lighten the moment. Allows me to see you as a possible co-worker vs. someone with whom I am jousting.
Appear comfortable. Be interested in me
and in the company from the start. And also? Provide long or short answers to each question, as appropriate.
Open ended questions are asked to elicit a deeper, more detailed response. Have one ready. Closed ended questions are asked to get specific details during a successful job interview. Be ready with those, too.
Keep eye contact. Have good posture. Says you haven’t relaxed or become complacent. When in doubt, provide a shorter answer. This allows you to hit with your best points. Allowing me a follow-on as necessary. Meandering or long answers early in the interview says that you are winging it. Or that you aren’t sure what I was asking. So you provide the whole truth. And then some.
Ask me to clarify a question. Ask me if an answer was satisfactory. It says, early on, that you care that I am getting the right information. And it will guide you as well.
Include key “leave behind” points in your answers. Start doing so in your response to an open ended question that gets to career summary (“Tell me about yourself”). Guide me back to successes, traits or key accomplishments. These allow me to envision your repeating those someday on my team.
Be real. Be honest. Give me the sense that you are the real person I am interviewing. Not someone who is trying desperately to fit a certain stereotype. If you get a question that forces you to admit a lack of perfect fit, admit it and move on. Don’t create a new past for yourself.
Look for an opportunity to ask a follow-on question. Keeps interview conversational. Like the beginning of a solid and trusting partnership. Inquire about my challenges, team objectives and goals for the next few years. While I may not leave you an obvious hole in my questioning, look to ask one at the end of an answer to a prior question. Understand my situation and you can better position yourself to be part of the solution.
Make key points by inflection and emphasis. Displays focus, understanding and passion. In short, give me solid indications that you are someone with whom I should spend the entire 45-60 minutes. Make me want to get deep into your background.
Tease me with an interesting story
of how you creatively solved a big problem. Paint me a bright picture and get me involved.
Engaged in what happened and the role you played.
Establish yourself not just as a pursuer but also as the pursued. I expect to be interviewed as well. Early and throughout. You are not taking over the interview, but rather looking for openings to gain the information you need to make a separate and independent decision about whether the company is right for you.
So . . .
Your first five minutes should read like the back cover of a good spy novel. Convince me there is a great story with you. That you are a great character. Well developed, interesting and driven to have a big impact. One that compels me to dig deep and read on. But don’t wait too long to begin sharing some of those juicy details. Show me your best traits early and keep the measurable examples coming.
I’ve got a business to run and grow. And I need someone’s help to do it. So for a successful job interview . . .
Make those first 5 minutes count.
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Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
Tags: 5 minutes
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| eleanor duckworth
| job interview
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Categories: Job Interview Tips And Questions