Interviewing: Four Minutes to Shine

By Chuck Reutlinger, Associate Director, SU Career Services

Interviewers are famous for making up their minds about considering someone further in the first four minutes of an interview.  Doesn’t sound fair, does it?  Much as they may be trained to do otherwise, they may still do it.

So, how can you insure that you make the first four minutes count?  As someone who has conducted hundreds of real interviews and more than a thousand mock interviews, here are some thoughts.

Positive image.  Make sure your visual and non-verbal impression is flawless, from your hair to your clothing to your accessories to your shoes, from your eye contact and smile to your firm, confident hand shake and upright posture.

Set a tone of confidence and enthusiasm.  When asked how you are, say more than most people’s automatic response of “Fine. How are you?”  Are you glad to have this interview?  Say so!  Have you researched the employer and its sector?  Say so! It might yield a chance to score points right away.

Score big points in the small talk. Interviewers want to see your composure, and your communicative and interpersonal skills, so respond to their remarks, take an interest in them and ask questions in return.  This is critical if your role will involve teamwork or contact with customers or others in the organization but outside your group.  Be ready to talk about current events, your extracurricular activities, and other things seemingly unrelated to the job since life is what you will discuss when you are on the job!

“So tell me about yourself.” First, expect this invitation to talk.  Second, realize that how you present your content is what they want to observe, but that, thirdly, what you relate can score points by making the content of your response relevant to their goals for the interview.  Instead of articulately relating what they already know, e.g. your recent history as shown on your resume,  consider telling them about your future goals or how you became interested in the field you have chosen to pursue or which elements of the job you are particularly keen to take on.  Tell interviewers what you mean to relate, keep the response focused so you hold their attention, and don’t ramble into other topical areas.  Wrap it up with an upbeat remark and let them get on to their next item of business.

Why are you interested in (this position, our organization)?  Expect this early in the interview, too.  It might substitute for “Tell me about yourself.”  You should be ready to score big points here IF you have done your homework on them, positions of this type and know how your own interests, skills, work style preferences, etc. will relate to their situation.  If you haven’t role played these responses with someone else to insure that they hit a target, then you could lose points early in the interview.

These are the common elements of the beginning of an interview.  Give them your attention and practice this stage of an interview as you would the later stages of any interview.  A good start can make a big difference!