That’s how long job candidates have to make the right first impression during an interview.
Almost half of employers said they know within the first five minutes of an interview whether a potential hire is a good fit for the position, according to a new survey from CareerBuilder.
Some potential hires have an even smaller window to make the right impression, with 7% of employers saying they make a decision within the first minute.
That leaves very little room for mistakes, and the clock starts ticking in the reception area.
Avoid being on your phone and engage with the receptionist if there is one, recommended Michael Erwin, senior career adviser at CareerBuilder.
“It’s that strong handshake when you are greeted, that small talk and chit-chat when walking to the interview room and those questions you are prepared to ask that will help move you on to the next level.”
Doing your research and practicing responses to standard interview questions are crucial to acing an interview. Before walking into an interview, be sure to know the company’s history, mission, current product offerings or initiatives and the background of the interviewer.
Take the time to fine tune your elevator pitch. “‘Tell me a little bit about yourself,’ is the hardest for people to answer and is the No. 1 question you will get,” said Erwin. Keep it quick and don’t just repeat what your resume says, he added, relate your experience to the open position and don’t be shy to scatter in a few personal details, like volunteer work.
Don’t. Do. This.
Not being adequately prepared for an interview opens the door to making all kinds of mistakes.
“Too many people think they can go in and wing it,” said Erwin. “Unfortunately, those are the people who are remembered for the wrong reasons.”
The surveyed employers reported seeing some pretty off-putting behaviors: breaking out into song in the middle of an interview, asking for a cocktail, offering a pumpkin for good energy and wanting a taste of the interviewer’s coffee.
While these mishaps are pretty extreme, there are more common issues that can prevent a candidate from getting hired.
Almost three-quarters of employers said lying will get an applicant disqualified.
More than two-thirds of employers said answering a phone call or text in an interview will destroy a candidate’s chances of getting hired. “Turn your phone off, employers don’t like to be interrupted,” said Erwin.
Around half of employers cited swearing, dressing inappropriately, appearing to lack accountability and talking negatively about a current or previous employer as deal breakers.
Keep in mind the interviewer shouldn’t be the only one asking questions. Asking pointed questions about the company demonstrates you did your research and shows interest in the job.
“Employers will ask about your skills and why you would be a good fit, but they will be more impressed with your questions…those will help you connect with an interviewer and look like a prepared and engaged worker,” said Erwin.
It’s what you do, too
It isn’t just what you say that can hurt your chances from getting hired, body language also plays a role.
Two-thirds of employers said failure to make eye contact is a mistake that can dampen a candidate’s chances of getting an offer. More than 30% said not smiling, playing with something on the table, fidgeting too much and bad posture are also common mistakes.
Keep your hand movements in check: 26% of employers said too much face or hair touching can be an issue, while a weak handshake and too many hand gestures can also be problematic.
While playing up your professional success and applicable experience is crucial during an interview, it’s also important to come across as personable.
“Work culture is such an important topic, [employers] want to see not only do you know how to do the job, but also are you a good fit to work with…it I not just about what’s on the paper.”
And if you do make a mistake (interviews can be nerve-racking!), the best option is to own it, fix it and move on, suggested Erwin.
“Take a breath correct what you said, if you need to you can ask to step out of the room and collect yourself and come back. If you prepared, you will feel much more comfortable.”