You’ve heard it said often: “First impressions are the most important.” When it comes to the job interview, here’s recent proof that bears this out: A new survey suggests hiring managers often know whether they might hire someone soon after the opening handshake and small talk. Executives polled said it takes them just 10 minutes to form a positive or negative opinion of job seekers, despite meeting with staff-level applicants for 55 minutes and management-level candidates for 86 minutes, on average. This particular survey included responses from 150 senior executives with Fortune 1000 companies.
What does this mean for you as you approach job interviews? Applicants need to project enthusiasm and confidence from the start. This is because the interview begins the moment a job seeker arrives. The tone of the conversation is often set the first few minutes of the discussion which is why its always wise to prepare especially well for the first few interview questions.
Making the first ten minutes of your interview work in your favor:
1. Know the four most important questions. Pay close attention to those four most important questions they want answers to:
- Why are you here?
- What can you do for us?
- Will you fit in? (Will you get along with our values and culture here?)
- What makes you different from everyone else that we may have talked with? (Will you go that extra mile?)
Rehearse your answers with your own personal “stories.” These are short narratives describing times when you overcame a crisis, led a team, met a deadline, resurrected a failed project, etc. Some common questions you’ll often encounter at the beginning of the interview:
- “Tell me a little about yourself.” (Question #2: “What can you do for us?”)
- “What do you know about us?” (Question #1: “Why are you here?”)
- “Why are you here today?” (Same)
- “Why are you looking to change jobs?” (Question#2: “What can you do for us?”)
- “What’s your most important accomplishment to date?” (Same)
- Why should we hire you (over everyone else we’ve seen)? (Question #4: “Will you go the extra mile?”)
2. Know the company. Do your homework. Always research the company before you interview. Know who they are, what they do, what their major products and services are, who their competitors are and the current “buzz” about them. This is important because the first few minutes of the interview are the time to flatter them. Remember the question, “Why are you here?” Show them that you’ve done your research and not only know something about their company, but also have several reasons for being enthusiastic about working for them. Let this enthusiasm carry over into your demeanor as you walk in the door.
3. Know your role. First impressions count for a lot, especially in the job interview. You’re on stage from the minute you enter the room. So play your role by first getting into character. What character is that, you ask? The “character” you play is that of a problem solver, not a job seeker. This is a key point being that as a problem solver, you know why you are here, you’re excited about this company, and you know you can help them achieve their goals. With this kind of ammunition, you can score direct hits on their opening questions and win big points for yourself by demonstrating you are both knowledgeable and excited about their opportunity. Remember, “Knowledge is power.”
Now that you’ve conquered The 10 Biggest Minutes of Your Interview, we can move on. Remember that a hiring manager can often tell if you’re the right fit for his or her organization just minutes after the two of you shake hands. With such a short amount of time to interact with a hiring manager, evoking a positive response is crucial. To do so, projecting confidence and enthusiasm is key so keeping the following advice in mind is sure to help you do just that:
1. Dress to impress. Wear a nice suit or business-appropriate dress, even if you know the office to be a casual environment because for better or worse, a good part of the impression an interviewer first forms of you depends on how you’re dressed.
2. Remain calm. Plan to arrive at the interview destination 10-15 minutes early so you have time to compose yourself and relax a little. One of the best ways to make a good first impression is to quell any pre-interview jitters.
3. Show some respect. Many hiring managers ask everyone who has interacted with a candidate — from administrative staff to members of their department — for feedback on the prospective employee. So be pleasant toward those you meet and avoid the urge to hold a loud cell phone discussion in the elevator or lobby.
4. Break the ice. Small talk plays an important role in the interview by helping to break the ice and put both parties at ease. If the hiring manager asks if traffic was heavy or if you had problems finding your way to the office, offer more than just a “yes” or “no” answer. Just be sure not to ramble on.
5. Focus on the little things. The fact that employers form opinions of candidates so quickly places additional importance on the more subtle points of the interview, such as giving a firm handshake, maintaining eye contact and practicing good posture. Your nonverbal cues can say a lot about your personality and interest in the position. Crossing your arms, nodding hurriedly or making tense facial expressions can all send the wrong message.
6. Demonstrate your knowledge. Hiring managers often start interviews by asking job candidates some straightforward questions about their experience, knowledge of the company and ability to excel in the position. Be sure you know the four most important questions and that you have rehearsed your answers with your own personal “stories.”
7. Remain positive. Even if you fear you’ve already made a negative impression in the hiring manager’s mind, stay positive and focus on what you can do during the rest of the meeting to convince the employer you’re right for the job. Consider whether you’re making any common nervous mistakes — such as rushing your responses or not listening to the full questions — and adjust your communications as necessary.
No matter how well you prepare for an interview, things may not always go as smoothly as you had hoped. Whether you become tongue-tied or are thrown a curveball question, roll with the punches. Keeping a positive attitude and remaining confident in your ability to land the job is one sure way to impress any hiring manager.
Think Sending a Thank You Letter is Not Necessary? Think Again!
Keep in mind that your evaluation as a potential candidate continues even after your interview concludes. More than 75 percent of interviewers say receiving a thank you note impacts their decision-making process. A carefully crafted thank you message creates an opportunity to reconnect with employers, build a relationship with interviewers, and keep your candidacy top of mind.
Here are some tips to help you gain the most out of this valuable message:
1. Stand out from the crowd. By sending a thank you message after each interview, you differentiate yourself from other candidates and can help advance your candidacy to the next round. Use this communication as a tool to address any objections expressed by interviewers and demonstrate your qualifications for the job.
2. Make it personal. Follow up with every person you interview with. Tailor each communication by focusing on the most significant points raised during each interview. Don’t be afraid to mention little details you learned about the interviewer, such as a shared passion or an upcoming trip – this demonstrates your attention to detail and makes the message more memorable.
3. Be specific. Relate how your experience is directly tied to the hiring manager’s needs and how your skills will help him or her solve these challenges. Call out any achievements, experiences, or qualifications you think are relevant to the job’s requirements but didn’t get a chance to mention during the interview.
4. Overcome objections. If the hiring manager communicated a concern with hiring you, address it in the thank-you note. Spell out that you can demonstrate what it takes.
5. Timing matters. In this mobile age where the expectation of immediacy is higher than ever, it’s imperative to send thank you notes within 24 -48 hours of every interview. Make sure to collect business cards or write down the proper spelling of the interviewers’ names and email addresses during the interview process to ensure follow-up in a timely manner.
6. Culture counts. It’s important to consider the individual and the company culture before sending your messages. A more traditional organization may prefer a hand-written letter, while a technology start-up may expect an email immediately.
7. Show interest. In a highly competitive job market, every detail counts. Choosing not to send a thank you note jeopardizes your positive perception as being disinterested.
8. Sweat the details. Proofread your thank-you note. Make sure everything is spelled properly (including the interviewer’s name and title), and correct all typos before hitting the “send” button or dropping the envelope into the mailbox.
Think of your thank you message as a tool to influence the interviewer and advance your position. If you didn’t get the job, get feedback from your recruiter whenever possible so you know how to improve for the next interview.
“Tell Me About Yourself”
The dreaded interview question that is bound to come up at some point in your job search. “Tell me about yourself…” It is open ended, vague, and who likes talking about themselves that much anyway? But, even if you are not interviewing, say you are in a social situation or networking, you need to be ready to hear it
and answer it.
The point to remember is it isn’t about what you say, it is how you say it. Okay, that is another vague statement, but hiring managers and recruiters often ask this question not concerned specifically with the content of the answer, but rather, that there is an answer and you express it confidently. Come across with enthusiasm and passion and avoid stalling and fumbling when you answer.
Next time you are faced with the dreaded “Tell me about yourself…” questions, try one of these:
- “I can summarize who I am with 3 words…” This grabs the listeners attention right away, and demonstrates your ability to be concise and organized.
- “The quote I live my life by is…” This shows personal development and self motivation.
- “People who know me best describe me as…” This shows self-awareness and inter-personal skills.
- “My passion is…” What you are passionate about is who you are.
- “My personal philosophy is…” This again shows personal development, and your role as a thinker and not just an employee.
Remember, these are just openers, what is just as important is what comes after. Keep it relevant, interesting and concise. Ultimately, it is about answering quickly, speaking creatively, and breaking people’s patterns.
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