Before I was a Recruiter, I worked as an actor, and when I coach candidates on how to interview, I revisit my time in front of the camera. In audition tapes, actors only get about 20 seconds to capture their audience’s attention. It sounds harsh, but imagine if the evening news started with 2 minutes of the anchor hemming and hawing at the top of the hour. I can feel my fingers reaching for the remote just thinking about it.
And the way someone presents as they walk into the lobby or greets their hosts can set the tone for how the rest of the interview goes. It’s about first impressions, sure, but also, about body language and projected confidence.
So how do you win over your audience fast? How do you nail the first 15 seconds? You have to put the work in to your interview prep. The amount of interview preparation you do beforehand will dictate the amount of confidence that you will project when you walk in that door. Knowing that you did the work and put in the time will give you the confidence you’ll need during your interviews.
Here are the job interview tips I give my candidates.
Put your internet sleuthing skills to good use
Spend some time researching the job you’re about to interview for. Review LinkedIn profiles of current employees. Read about the company’s history and mission. Understand their brand and the company’s values. Track down what you can on the company’s culture. There are a few questions you should be able to answer:
Do you understand the job duties as they’re written?
What connections can you draw between your previous experiences and the expectations of the role you’ll be interviewing for?
What unique experience in your previous roles do you offer as a candidate?
And most importantly: Why do you want this job? At this company? Right now? If it looks like you’re only interested in finding yourself gainfully employed with the first company that will have you, that will be a strike against you in the hiring manager’s eyes.
So in preparing your answers to these questions, you’ll start to create meaningful answers to questions that will undoubtedly come up over the course of your interview. The time you’ve invested to prepare will demonstrate your passion for the role. And when it comes to those first 15 seconds, you’ll be prepared to project a confident enthusiasm—you’ll know why you’re there and what you have to offer that’s unique.
Still looking for tips for how to ace your interview? Here are some extra steps that will set you ahead of your competition.
Get an early jump on things
Scope out the traffic patterns on Google Maps if you can to be sure you’re clear on the drive time. If there’s a coffee shop near the interview location, I encourage candidates to grab coffee an hour ahead of their scheduled interview and read over the job description a few times. This little break gives you space to relax and catch your breath, so you can walk in 10 minutes early–un-sweaty and Zen-like.
Embrace the limelight
Job interviews are a close cousin to public speaking. Maybe the crowds are smaller, but you’re still in a situation that has you in the center of everyone’s attention. It’s an environment that’s bound to induce some sweaty palms. But like it or not, your interview time is all about you.
Going through the research and prep should help calm some of those nerves, but the next step is to dress the part. Donning a freshly laundered suit and scuff free shoes will bring out your most polished self, and make you feel more comfortable dropping those humble brags of your past successes.
Grounded in who you are, what you have to offer, and looking sharp will put you in the right frame of mind to greet everyone–including the receptionist–with polished confidence.
And as for closing out the interview as strong as you started? Make sure you’ve jotted down a few questions specific to that company that cropped up in your research and preparation. The specificity of your questions demonstrates how seriously you are taking the interview, your enthusiasm for the role, and how you can make an impact.
Do you have any tips for nailing the first 15 seconds of an interview? What’s your favorite trick for making a great first impression? Start a conversation in the comments below.