Six tips for the first two minutes

Because nothing matters more than a first impression

  1. Everyone knows not to be late to an interview. But recruiters say arriving early is just as bad–in fact, showing up even 10 minutes ahead of time may irritate them. Why? You will interrupt whatever they’re doing (“Ms. Jenkins, your next appointment is here”), which can sow a seed of resentment. It also sends a message: You are an amateur, both overeager and overworried about being late. Arrive no more than five minutes before the interview. If you find yourself there earlier than that, look for a bench outside, read the newspaper, and … floss or something.
  2. While you’re waiting for the interviewer to greet you, always remain standing. “You don’t want the very first thing the interviewer sees to be you getting your things in order and adjusting your clothing,” says Anne Warfield, president of Impression Management Professionals, a Minneapolis-based career consulting firm whose clients include 3M and American Express.
  3. Sociolinguists at Stanford University have discovered that what we say accounts for a mere 7 percent of a person’s first impression of us, while our body language constitutes 55 percent. In case they’re right, hold your briefcase or bag in your left hand and keep the right one hanging loosely at your hip, ready to shake hands.
  4. When speaking with the recruiter’s assistant, use her name. A simple, respectful “Thanks, Denise” could mean a kind word from Denise to her boss later.
  5. Be prepared for the potentially awkward moment when you and the recruiter walk into a conference room for the interview and there are more than two chairs. If she hasn’t yet taken a seat, rest your hand on one of the chairs and ask, “Is this a good place for me to sit?” If the interviewer has already set up shop, “choose the seat directly across from her,” says Michele Mamet, associate director of university relations at Bristol-Myers Squibb. “If the table is round, sit next to her, but move away so you can look her dead in the eye.”
  6. The interviewer may well kick things off with the dreaded “Tell me about yourself.” If he asks, you gotta tell him. But since your best overall M.O. is to release information about yourself in strategic deployments throughout the interview, resist the urge to dump it all at once. John Worth, director of career consulting at Darden and a former recruiter at Deloitte Consulting, advises rehearsing a 60-second commercial spot that summarizes your responsibilities at your last job, capped by your reasons for pursuing this position. Begin this last part with the phrase “But what I really want to do is … “

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