The Most Important 2 Minutes of Your Job Interview

You only get one first impression. Make it count with these job-search tips. 

The annual running of the Kentucky Derby marks the “fastest two minutes in sports.” On that day, approximately twenty Thoroughbreds race down one and a quarter miles of track, each competing for a piece of the multi-million dollar purse and a chance to be draped in a blanket of roses at the winner’s circle.

When a race is so short, every second counts. The smallest slipup out of the gates can destroy your chances of victory. The same can be said of the interview process. While an interview will certainly last longer than two minutes, the first few minutes of an interview can set the tone for the entire meeting. As Will Rogers once said, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” 

With that in mind, here are some job-search tips to ensure your interview begins on the right foot.

Dress for success

Your clothing, grooming, hygiene and hairstyle are an integral part of your professional brand. These become even more important when you’re looking for work. Consider your target employer’s company culture when selecting your interview outfit so you look like you’re already a part of the team. Regardless of the company’s dress code, make sure your outfit fits you well, is clean and pressed, and looks put together.

Start the interview in the waiting room

Your interview starts the moment you wake up. Assume everyone you encounter, from the security guard in the lobby to the others sitting in the waiting room, to be part of the vetting process. Be friendly and considerate with those around you. Don’t talk on the phone or gulp down a quick meal in the waiting room. Instead, focus on reviewing your materials and mentally preparing for your meeting.

Deliver your pitch with confidence

Most interviews begin with someone asking you to “talk a little bit about yourself.” This is your cue to launch into your elevator pitch. With the job description in mind, explain what you bring to the table. In other words, describe how your experience, successes and interests can provide value to the employer. Be prepared to support your elevator pitch with succinct stories, using the STAR method, that demonstrate your qualifications for the role.

Consider your body language

Make sure your body is sending the same positive vibes that your speech is. Don’t fold your arms or stick your hands in your pockets. Instead, keep your hands on your knees or folded on the table until you need to make a gesture. Lean a little forward in your chair to indicate your interest, but don’t invade the interviewer’s space. And don’t forget to smile!