People have short attention spans today, and recruiters and hiring managers are no different from the rest of the population. When it comes to impressing someone who may give you a job, you have less time than ever to make a good impression. For example, while conventional wisdom used to say you had 20 seconds to impress someone with your resume, now, research shows you may have only 6 seconds – and that is only if you make it beyond the applicant tracking system that screens your resume before a person even sees it. In-person interactions are no different. First impressions count, and if you get beyond the resume review stage and have a chance to interview, an Accountemps study suggests you probably don't have more than five or ten minutes to make a positive impression.
If you have 10 minutes to impress the recruiter, what should you do?
1. Make a good first impression.
We know first impressions count. A firm handshake, enthusiastic smile and upbeat body language get you off to a good start. If it doesn't seem like you're happy to be there, assume your interviewer won't be inviting you back.
2. Get to the point.
If the first interview question is, "Tell me about yourself," and you launch into an autobiographical diatribe beginning with where you were born, expect you've already lost your audience. Prepare so you will be able to answer questions succinctly and directly, without including a lot of information the recruiter does not need to know.
3. Listen carefully and answer the questions.
With the political season in full swing, you may begin to believe you are in vogue if you dodge the question and instead provide details based on your own interview agenda. While we "hire" politicians who get away with that technique, you are not likely to impress a recruiter if you do not specifically respond to the questions asked.
4. Be sure to pay attention to the question and respond with details to indicate your expertise.
Thing about using the "STAR" technique, which stands for "situation/task/action/results" to create useful responses: provide a situation, describe the task and the action you took, then outline the results.
5. Show, don't tell.
Have stories to describe your successes and accomplishments that are specifically related to what this employer needs you to do. If you know the job requires leadership and management background, be prepared to describe your successes leading and managing people and organizations.
6. Include just enough details to ensure the recruiter knows you can do the job, but not too many that his mind wanders off while you are trying to get to the point.
Keep the "STAR" technique in mind, and it will be easier for you to make sure your interviewer understands what you offer.
7. Highlight lessons learned.
Be able to describe what you learned in your past experiences and how you use those lessons to be better at your job today. This could come early in the interview in the form of the dreaded, "What is your weakness?" question. If you can quickly hone in on a weakness you learned from and illustrate how you're a better candidate for the experience, you'll go far.
Recruiters want you to succeed.
Do you part by being the candidate who is surprisingly enthusiastic, upbeat, answers questions directly and details relevant accomplishments, and you'll be one step closer to landing a new job.
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