Every job seeker knows there isn't much time to make a positive impression during an interview. But have you ever stopped to consider how short your window of opportunity actually is? According to a survey from Robert Half International, it may be 10 minutes less
Sixty percent of human-resources managers polled said they form a positive or negative option of candidates within 10 minutes. Some make impressions even more quickly; 18 percent of respondents said they need just five minutes to draw conclusions about an interviewee.
How can you make the most of the little time you have? Here are some tips:
Arrive on time. Although no one tries to be late, it's easy to find yourself scrambling around on the morning of your interview as the meeting time draws closer.
One way to ensure you're not late is to aim to arrive half an hour early. You'll give yourself some leeway in case traffic is worse than expected or you get lost.
If you find you have time to spare, use it to review your résumé, check your appearance in the restroom and make sure your cellphone has been turned off before stepping into the employer's office. Show up five to 10 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start to prove that you're punctual.
Bring reinforcements. Don't arrive to the interview empty-handed. Bring extra copies of your resume and any work samples you submitted or were asked to provide. Also prepare a list of references in case the interviewer requests this information. Compiling this document ahead of time is a good way to show you're prepared.
Also pack a notepad and pen before heading out the door. During the interview, jot down key points about the job or company. These details will come in handy when crafting a thank-you note to the hiring manager and when evaluating the job if it's offered to you.
Shake hands like you mean it. It sounds clichéd, but a firm, confident handshake is important. In a CareerBuilder survey, more than one-quarter of hiring managers say a weak hand shake is a mark against potential hires.
Not sure if your handshake passes muster? Practice with a friend ahead of time. Another tip: Smile as you shake hands. It'll reaffirm the self-assured attitude you're trying to convey.
Don't skip the small talk. One of the best ways to build immediate rapport with a potential employer is with small talk. Make a point to comment about the traffic, the weather or your weekend plans. Avoid sensitive topics and jokes.
Be sure you don't ramble on. As the name implies, small talk should take up only a little of the total conversation. Look to the hiring manager for a cue that it's time to talk business.
Assess your surroundings. Once seated in the interview room, take a moment to survey your surroundings, especially if you're meeting in the hiring manager's office. Photos, diplomas, mementos, tchotchkes and other items can tell you a lot about the person on the other side of the desk. You may learn of shared interests or experiences that you can mention to establish a more lasting connection. For example: "I see that you attended State University as well. I bet you miss Tony's Pizza as much as I do."
Slow down. If you're like most job candidates, you'll be a nervous wreck -- at least on the inside. One result of all that adrenaline is that you may talk more quickly than normal, causing your words to jumble together.
If you find your mouth moving 100 miles per hour, force yourself to take a breath and calm down. It does no good to give the perfect answer if the hiring manager can't understand a word of it.
Give yourself a moment to compose your thoughts before responding. Then, speak clearly and at a comfortable pace. Try to maintain as natural a tone as possible. Take another breath if you start to speed up again.
Watch your body language. Body language plays a signicant role in the message you convey. For example, wiggling your foot, biting your nails or frantically clicking the pen in your hand will make you seem nervous, bored or distracted -- and likely annoy the hiring manager.
Instead, strike a confident pose. Look the interviewer in the eye when speaking, and lean forward in your chair to show you're engaged. Just don't overdo it. An exaggerated or unnatural pose can come across as, well, just plain weird.