Congratulations – you got the face-to-face interview for the position you really want. It’s the right company, the leadership is strong, the team is great, now all you have to do is ace this meeting. But when it comes to interviews, there are two parts that will really make or break it for you – the first 5 minutes and the last 5 minutes.
Studies show that hiring managers know within the first 90 seconds if they won’t hire someone. To test this theory, I spoke with some hiring managers that I work with frequently, and they expressed that the first 5 minutes of the interview really set the tone to determine whether the interview will be great or just mediocre. Here’s how to nail those first crucial moments:
- Mentally prepare. Do your homework on the organization and the people you’re meeting. Research common interview questions and prepare answers so you have them at your disposal during the meeting.
- Check your body language. You’ve heard it before: actions speak louder than words. It’s crucial to have a strong handshake and steady eye contact. Practice with people and ask them for honest feedback on your handshake and the appropriate amount of eye contact. They should both be long enough to matter, but not awkward or uncomfortable for the other party. It is best to do this with someone other than your significant other, as they easily overlook things and sometimes can be afraid to give honest feedback.
- Mind your manners. Also known as “make your mother proud.” If the room is warm and you’re wearing a jacket, ask the hiring manager if they mind if you take it off before you do so. While everyone gets settled, there will be small talk. Brush up on your current events and be sure to add value. Oftentimes, hiring managers use small talk as a test to see if you can keep a conversation going with someone you don’t know or when you’re nervous. This can be tricky, as you want to carry that conversation on, but don’t want to delay the formal interview stage too much.
Once you get through all the formalities and questions of the interview, you arrive at the last 5 minutes. This time is so important because it is absolutely the time to take your interview from mediocre to the top 10%. Here’s how you can leave a lasting impression that will result in infinitely more job offers:
- Express your desire for the job. This is your final sell. As elementary as it may seem, closing by simply stating that you want the position can be very powerful. One final time, highlight your strengths and how you would contribute to this role and the team.
- Ask about next steps. Even if the recruiter already told you about the next steps, ask this question anyway. Not only does it help gauge how the interview actually went, it will reaffirm what you can expect.
- Issue a thank you and smile. No matter how you feel the interview went, this is essential. It takes a lot of time to interview people for a position, and this person thought it was important to consider you. Express gratitude and warmth and it won’t be forgotten. You will want to follow up with a formal thank you note (read more about that here), but this is a great start.