The Job Interview

Minute by Minute

Nowhere in the business world are the first five minutes more important than in the job interview.  There is one primary rule to remember which is divided into three parts in order of importance:

  1. SELL yourself
  2. SELL your skill
  3. SELL your potential.

   ***Only when you have succeeded in selling yourself can you go on to present your skills and your potential.

Why Many Interviews Fail

There are six reasons that people flunk interviews for high-level positions below chief executive officer level. These are the Big Bad Six:

1.            Poor appearance, dress, and/or grooming

2.            Inability to express views clearly

3.            Failure to project self objectively

4.            Inability to project self-confidence and enthusiasm

5.            Over-criticism of former employers

6.            Too much evidence of job jumping

Getting Ready for the Interview

Prepare the day prior by: managing your time well to reduce stress; select your business attire and insure your outfit is professionally laundered and polished; and most important, eat and rest well. Get plenty of sleep before your interview.

Getting to the Interview on Time

Be sure to arrive at the interview at least fifteen minutes ahead of time to allow yourself a period of relaxation and forethought. While you sit there waiting, think of an opening line for the interview. You should have a number of different openings in mind so that you can select the most appropriate when you are finally on the scene.

The First Minute

Your entrance into the interviewer’s office can make or break your entire meeting. The first impression you make is crucial. You will never get a chance to make it up again.

Walk in with your head up, your back straight, your face smiling, and your attitude energetic and animated. The best impression to make is that of someone pleasant and personable.

Once you are inside the office, look the interviewer straight in the eye and shake hands firmly. Sit in an upright chair if no other is designated and never fidget. Always remain eye to eye with the interviewer as much of the time as you can.

The Second Minute:

Once the initial inspection on both sides is completed, you must remember that your main purpose in coming to speak to the interviewer is to impress him or her with your own persona in the most favorable way possible. You are not there to sell your past experience, your skills nor you expertise. These points will be covered on your resume. Though countless people make this mistake everyday, during the second minute your skills should only be discussed if asked. In a relaxed manner, come to know the individual you are meeting.

The Third Minute:

By now you and the interviewer have established some kind of rapport. It is very important to remain on guard with good posture in an energetic manner, do not relax to the point of appearing indolent or amused.

The interviewer will probably give you a run-down of the job describing it at this point in the meeting. Respond continually to the points being made: they are being made for a reason. Pay particular attention to not only the words spoken but to the attitude of the interviewer. You should be reading him or her just as he or she is reading you.

The Fourth Minute:

The interviewer may well give you a chance to talk about yourself. Be selective about what you reveal by asking yourself what he or she as an individual might want to know about you. This part of the interview can be loaded up with personal points if desired.

Quite possibly, in this minute, the tension you both felt at first may have dissipated somewhat. By now the interviewer is making a decision-you may be getting some hints as to the decision by the vibrations in the air. The best thing to do is to simply go on and complete the interview without paying attention to what the interviewer is thinking, even if you believe you know.

The Fifth Minute:

Questions may begin at this point, questions that have a great deal of relevance to the situation at hand. The main thing is not to let any question throw you for a loop.

A lot of interviewers like to rattle an interviewee, but remember you are fair game for the interviewer who is looking you over for the position. Any hiring officer wants to know how a prospective employee will respond under stress. So--Expect a curve ball to be thrown.

Five Minutes Plus

Most interviews last longer than five minutes, but the crucial moments will have passed by now. Now you can face the questions in your own way and ask questions if you are invited to do so. One vital thing to remember about the job interview: Don’t talk too much!

The Power of Positivity

Your role throughout the interview is to keep your poise and present all the positive factors in your favor clearly and fully. Always balance a concern (negative statement) over a past experience or employer with a statement of respect and positive feelings.

Questions, Questions, Questions

It is a good idea to know in a general way what you are going to be asked. If you come prepared for the right kind of questions, you stand little chance of being thrown a curve ball by a clever interviewer. Here are four general categories where most interview questions fall:

1.  Work experience

2.  Education

3.  Family and early years

4.  Current activities & interests

Subjects That May Come up:

Q.     What are your career goals?

R.      Be sure not to give the impression that you are using the job as a stepping stone to something bigger.

Q.     Why did you leave your last job?

R.      Do not express any bitterness about a former employer.

Q.     Why does this job interest you?

R.     This question might be used as an initiator just to get you talking. Sell yourself to the job, as it is a position you would ENJOY.

Q.    What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses?  Questions may begin at this point, questions that have a great deal of relevance to the situation at hand. The main thing is not to let any question throw you for a loop.

R.    Stress what will make the job go well. Make your weaknesses into strengths, i.e. state your perfectionism not as a weakness but let it be accepted as a strength.

A question about your home life and how you grew up may not be small talk at all. The interviewer may be trying to ascertain how you looked at yourself over the years. It may lead to some kind of information about your degree of motivation and personal adjustment. Sell your positive feelings about your family past, your education, activities.

Sell Your Potential

Last but not least is to sell your potential. What your interviewer sees is what he or she hires or does not hire. It is a good idea to remind the interviewer of the fact that you are not always going to be as you are at the moment 


King, Norman. The First Five Minutes: The Successful Opening Moves in Business, Sales and Interviews. Prentice Hall Press: New York, 1987.