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Five Tips to Make the Most of an Interview's First Five Minutes

IT'S HAPPENED TO all of us. You finally get an interview for the job you want. You spend the drive over anticipating questions and rehearsing answers. You give the interviewer your best handshake, and then, before you can answer the second question, you know you’re not getting this job.

Despite the lengthy conversation ahead, most interviews either succeed or fail in the first five minutes. Just like any other first meeting, first impressions are huge and yours needs to be right.

During a talent search, hiring managers are involved in a process a lot like speed dating: they advertise a need for someone with specific characteristics and are then left to sort out the responses. Their goal is to weed out as many people as possible so they can narrow it down to a few final candidates.

Having your resume selected from the stack is a great first step, but then you’re faced with closing the deal. How can you make sure you are a success story? Keep the following five tips in mind:

1. Show up 15 minutes early.

If you’re much earlier than that, you can appear desperate and make the interviewer uncomfortable. Later than that, you’ll leave a bad impression and start the interview frazzled.

2.  Dress appropriately.

Research the company culture. Your best bet will be if you can talk to an employee who works there. Try the assistant scheduling the interview or the receptionist. While you always need to look professional, it’s also important that you look as if you belong. Your formal suit will stick out in a casual office filled with jeans and khakis just as much as a t-shirt would in a corporate office.

3. Be polite to everyone you meet.

This includes security guards, receptionists and the people you pass in the hall. Not only is it the right thing to do, but everyone talks. Your interviewer will be aware if someone is not impressed.

4. Follow directions.

If you’ve been asked to bring your resume, bring it. If you were told to fill out an application online, make sure it’s been done. Pre-interview work is important and gives the interviewer some insight into how you will complete tasks on the job.

5. Wow them by going above and beyond.

People love seeing their name in print and you will score major bonus points by bringing a resume and cover letter packet addressed to the interviewer.

Call ahead to find out who you will be meeting with and make sure that you have one addressed to each person in the interview. Your attention to detail will impress immediately and show that you are excited about the opportunity.

These tips will help you put your best foot forward and differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack. Once you have their attention, make sure to be friendly and positive regardless of how the interviewer behaves; you want them to only be able to say good things about you.

If you realize during the interview that the company is not the right fit for you, don’t let it show. Even interviews for the wrong jobs are a great opportunity to practice and build relationships with people in your industry.

Job searches can be gruelling and interviews nerve-wracking, but these few simple tricks will give you the confidence and skills to nail the interview in the first five minutes.