Why the First 5 Minutes of a Job Interview Are So Important

first five minsThe job search process relies heavily on impressions. Or rather, a series of first impressions.

How you present your personal brand both online, and in your resume and cover letter is usually where it starts. This carries through to when you arrive for your first interview. One of the most important moments in terms of making an impression – if not THE most important moment – happens when the employer finally gets to see you live and in person.

Companies in hiring mode are on full alert for anything that might provide clues to what kind of an employee you would be – and those first few minutes can make or break your chances since impressions form quickly. So don’t think your interview hasn’t started even though you haven’t been asked any questions yet!

On that point, I am reminded of a reader who was frustrated that a company she really wanted to work for – and for which she felt she was such a good match – wouldn’t give her a chance at a second interview. In telling us about the “unfair” company, she mentioned almost as an aside that she brought her parents with her to the interview site…because they had driven her there!

But she couldn’t understand why she got so much flack from the receptionist for simply asking if they could wait in the lobby while she interviewed. She tried to explain that it was hot out and their car didn’t have good air-conditioning. She even got into a small argument with the receptionist when, although told it’s against policy, she wouldn’t give up.

But she brushed all that off, and went into the interview room excited by the opportunity and ready to wow her interviewer, who was still wrapping things up with the prior candidate.  Funny enough…according to her…the interviewer who seemed so warm and friendly to the other candidate and even to her when he first shook her hand, now seemed to be cool with her – and definitely didn’t give her much of a chance, even though she turned on the charm full blast.

The interview barely lasted 10 minutes. Interviewers can be so rude, she told us. What had she done to deserve such treatment? She had great skills and yet she never got past some boring initial questions. How could she show how much she had to offer when he was barely making eye contact with her? Clearly, as she saw it, the company and especially this interviewer had their priorities all screwed up!

Cut to reality…

In that one short job interview story, we see at least 10 direct and indirect messages she communicated to the company that did NOT work in her favor. Here’s my list. Feel free to add your own!

  • I am still child-like and attached to my parents.
  • I don’t respect your rules.
  • I don’t respect what a receptionist tells me.
  • I think this is all about me and my needs.
  • I am high maintenance.
  • This is me on my best behavior!
  • I will sweat the small stuff when I work for you.
  • I will blame others if things go wrong for me.
  • I am limited in my ability to see the whole picture.
  • I don’t get that the interview process (translated to workplace relationships & performance in general) is not just about what happens behind closed doors.

Wow! That’s a lot. And yet the job seeker felt she hadn’t been given a chance to really show who she is. But, of course, she did get a chance. And sadly, this job seeker showed she was disconnected from the idea that, in the end, job interviews are about the company’s needs and not her own special needs…no matter how unfair that may seem at times. And she seemed genuinely surprised that the impression she made with the receptionist would have (1) been communicated, even sought out by the interviewer; and (2) totally affected her chances.

Every single contact you have with a potential employer, no matter how small it might seem to you, is evidence they examine carefully. Interviewers are looking to see how well you’d fit into the company and what you’d be like to work with on a daily basis.  It’s your job to show them you get AND respect that!





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe!



About the Author: Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.



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