A whopping 50% of interviewers know within the first five minutes if you are a good fit for the job. The first five minutes! That’s scarily short. It’s not much time to do or say anything, so you need to make the most of it.
It’s also very difficult to change that initial judgement, regardless of how hard you try. Psychologists call this the halo effect. This cognitive bias means that, rather than your later actions affecting how people thought of you initially, people’s initial judgement will affect how they view your later actions.
So if you make a great first impression, they might cut you a bit of slack later on, but if your first impression is bad, you will be judged more harshly.
Here’s how you can make the most of that crucial first five minutes:
1. Dress to impress
When someone is making a judgement about you in such a short space of time, they don’t have much to go on. So, the way you look will play a big part.
2. Do as you’re told
If you’ve been asked to do something specific, such as bring certain documents to the interview or complete a task beforehand, do it! If you don’t, you’ll show the interviewer that you don’t pay attention and can’t follow instructions.
3. Be on time
Although theoretically your five minutes start from whenever you arrive, if the interviewer has to wait around for you, they’re not going to begin with a great perception of you. On top of that, arriving late probably also means that you’re arriving in a rush, i.e. not at your best.
4. Be polite (to everyone)
Manners don’t cost a penny, as they say. This doesn’t only apply to the hiring manager, though. The way you treat any other staff, such as HR or receptionists, you come into contact with all goes into how you are perceived at that company. Make sure that perception is a good one by remembering your manners, even if you’re super nervous or laser-focused on the interview.
5. Mind your body language
The way you’re dressed isn’t the only visual cue that a hiring manager will use to form an opinion of you. Stand (or sit) up straight and keep your body language open and welcoming.
You should also consider mirroring the interviewer’s body language. Researchers have proved that doing so can create a rapport between the two of you. This is known as the Chameleon Effect.
6. Avoid a handshake that’s too weak (or too strong)
Both weak handshakes and overly strong handshakes are among employers’ biggest turn-offs. Grip their hand firmly (but not hard enough to cause any discomfort), shake two or three times and let go. It’s also a good idea to take the interviewer’s lead on firmness when shaking hands. If you’re really worried about shaking hands, consider practising with a friend.
7. Give your elevator pitch
You haven’t got much time to impress your potential employer. So you need to showcase what you can do while staying concise. That’s where your elevator pitch comes in. Your elevator pitch should be made up of three things: your goal, your experience and the connection between the two.
That means explaining what you’re pursuing in your career, what you’ve done so far and how what you’ve done leads to what you want to do – all in 30 to 60 seconds.
8. Don’t blather on
Give clear, succinct answers to the interviewer’s questions. When you’ve answered a question, stop talking. Don’t chatter nervously on until your answer just trails away lamely or you’ll be wasting time in addition to looking ill-prepared.
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