Did you know that most managers indicate that they know if they are going to hire someone within three minutes of meeting them? Three minutes! This information is based on a survey of 4000 hiring managers in 2018 by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Perhaps you don’t believe decisions are made quite that instantaneously. Researchers from Old Dominion, Florida State, and Clemson decided to take a look at how things play out in real life. Their study looked at more than 600 30-minute job interviews with college and graduate students. More than half – 60% – of decisions were made within the first 15 minutes of a job interview, less than halfway though the scheduled interview time.
All of these statistics make it very clear that first impressions in an interview are critical. How then can you capitalize on those first key moments to stand out positively?
Confidence is key.
Having a solid handshake and making eye contact are non-verbal ways to communicate your confidence. Practice these standard interview gestures as much as you practice your answers to interview questions. They are often part of the initial greeting and can go a long way in ensuring a positive first impression.
Nail the “Tell me about yourself” question!
This question is almost always the opening ice breaker question. A small stumble should not derail your chances, but your answer to this question needs to be clear, concise, and compelling. Make sure you have this down pat before going into the interview. You don’t need to script exactly what you are going to say, but you should have an idea of what to touch on. It can be helpful to think of 3-4 bullet points that you want to address in your answer. Remember: this question is an easy way to sell yourself for the role at hand.
It is better to be overdressed rather than underdressed.
Part of portraying confidence is how you physically present yourself on interview day. Your interviewer may be in jeans and a hoodie, but you should be dressed in business attire. Make sure you take the time to appear neat, clean, and well-prepared. Failing to do so will lead managers to make assumptions about you that might not be true – like you are lazy or unprofessional.
The whole interview is important, but it is becoming clear that the first half of the interview is the most crucial period for making a positive impression. Plan accordingly and over-practice some of those initial get to know you questions. If you are at the NIH and need help preparing for an interview, you can make an appointment with an OITE career counselor here.