Make the Most of the First Five Minutes – Five Ways to Make a Good First Impression in an Interview

By Rebecca Henninger

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How quickly do you think most hiring decisions are made? Unfortunately, the first five minutes of an interview can pretty much make or break it for you. Like anything else in life, first impressions matter and a hiring manager is going to quickly assess you and develop an initial opinion. While your answers and even your own questions can move the needle, if you fail to make a good first impression you’re probably not going to get the job.

Five Ways to Make a Good First Impression in an Interview

  1. Be confident. This doesn’t mean you should walk in like you own the place, but it does mean that you should have a firm understanding of the value you offer, your key skills and expertise, and how you fit into the company’s strategic goals and vision.
  2. Dress the part. When in doubt, go with a suit. Keep your nails groomed, don’t overdo the makeup or perfume, and present your resume and cover letter in a similarly professional fashion. If you’re poised and confident but your resume is on wrinkled copy paper, red flags will be set off. You should always use white or off-white resume paper, paper-clipped and not stapled, carried in a leather folio or briefcase and presented in a folder.
  3. Thank them for the opportunity, and be genuinely excited. A little nervousness is ok, it will show the interviewer that you’re excited and appreciate the gravity of this situation. You should 100% start off by thanking the interviewer for bringing you in. It’s just the right thing to do, and shows you have a grasp of social graces.
  4. Ditch the phone. If your phone is present and the interviewer can see that it’s on, you run the risk of irritating them or appearing distracted. Turn it off and put it away. And whatever you do, do NOT place the phone on the desk, chair arm or any other visible surface.
  5. Make eye contact and keep your hands to yourself. If you’re like me and you’re from the East Coast, you’re used to talking with your hands. It’s a tough one to break but I’ve learned the hard way that flailing your hands around while explaining how you can dramatically improve results for XYZ Company is just plain distracting. And as tempting as it may be, remain focused on what the interviewer is saying, not the cool posters behind their desk.

What you say and how you say it are equally as important. It’s not enough to research the company and have outstanding experience. If you don’t appear genuine, engaged and professional, someone else with similarly impressive credentials is probably in line behind you. Bring your professional resume and your "A" game, smile and wait for your turn in conversation, and be prepared with some strong closing questions to wow the interviewer.

About the Author

Rebecca Henninger is a professional resume writer and LinkedIn profile specialist with an active CPRW and a passion for helping clients worldwide achieve balance, integration, and professional fulfillment. She is a mother of two, Bravo TV addict, and skilled career strategist.

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Image credit: Julian Lim


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