As a job seeker, you have little to no time to make an impression on hiring managers, human resource professionals, and recruiters. Right from the outset, decision-makers judge you based on their pre-existing hard-wiring and hundreds of nonverbal cues.
Today, I’d like to share some simple tips to help you get past the first few seconds and leave a lasting impression…in 10 minutes or less.
#1 Be prepared.
You’d be surprised at the number of job candidates who show up underdressed, ill-informed, and impolite. Even if you are not any of those things, you won’t stand out just by doing what an experienced recruiter and hiring manager considers the bare minimum.
Dress professionally for the interview but also appropriately for the work environment and position. It’s okay to dress more casually for a tech startup than a pharmaceutical company, but both jobs require that you brush your hair and teeth.
Be gracious on your way in, and on your way out, to everyone you meet. As Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says, “One of our values is to be humble, and another one is about family spirit, so if [job candidates] aren’t nice to the shuttle driver… it’s in violation of those values.”
Smile, sit up straight, and make eye contact. Be friendly and respectful of the other person’s schedule. Write a thank you note afterward, including at least one detail that came up in conversation to show that you are a good and appreciative listener.
Lastly, arrive 5-10 minutes early, no earlier and no later.
They have a problem. You have the solution. Who doesn’t want to hear that?
A job search isn’t all about what you want. It’s about making concrete connections between what your potential employer and HR needs and what you’ve proven you can deliver against those needs.
Go beyond sharing information about yourself with the executive recruiter and hiring manager. Gather intelligence about what business goals and needs the open position is designed to fill and potential obstacles in the way.
Probe for openings by asking questions like, “I understand you are trying to …” or “Has it been difficult to … ?” “How long have you been conducting the search?” and “What haven’t you seen that you’ve been looking for?” Then, tell them how you can help.
Stick to the relevant facts. Explain how you have accomplished the precise goals at hand and how you did it. You can even start mapping out how their organization can accomplish the same goals. The best interviews are those that turn into actual working sessions.
Give the employer an opportunity to “test drive the car”—namely, you. Interviews are about building the hiring manager’s confidence level in your ability to get the job done.
#3 Get personal (in a professional way).
Make a connection with your interviewer that transcends work. Similar to dating, bringing up a shared interest creates a bond and makes you more memorable. It also positions you as someone who has the ability to build rapport with others, both in and out of the office.
Ask questions like, “Where do you live?” Do you have any plans for the weekend?” Or, if it’s a Monday, try asking, “Did you have a nice weekend? Did you do anything fun?” Listen attentively, and follow up: “That sounds fun. What did you like the best?” “I missed the game. Did they win?” “I’ve been to that restaurant, too. What did you order?”
There is nothing better than hitting it off with a complete stranger over something like sports, food or traveling.
A word of caution, however: Watch the clock. If you don’t truly connect within the first five minutes, you probably lost your audience. No one appreciates a one-way conversation (and if they remember you, it won’t be for good reasons). The conversation at a minimum should be a 50/50 split or, if things are going well, the hiring team member will be doing the talking roughly 70% of the time.
Also, remember that certain topics are off limits: politics, sex (all aspects, including orientation), race, religion, age, marital/relationship status, anything gender-related, drugs, children, health, and (if you’re talking to a woman) pregnancy. Here is a comprehensive list of interview topics to avoid.
These tips are easy and straightforward; the tricky part is implementing your soft skills to actually make that positive first impression stick. Practice on barista at the local coffee shop, the person standing behind you at the grocery store cash register, or your postal carrier.
There’s no shortage of opportunities daily to better yourself while achieving your personal goals as you move throughout your day.
Do you have any tips for making a strong first impression? Share your thoughts here!