A good first impression

According to a recent survey, hiring
managers know fairly quickly in the
interview process whether they will hire a candidate. Executives polled said it
takes them on average just 10 minutes to
form an opinion of a candidate, even
though interviews for staff-level applicants
last an average of 55 minutes and those of
management-level candidates are an average of 86 minutes.

The survey was developed by Robert Half
Finance & Accounting, the world’s first and
largest specialized financial recruitment
service. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses
from 150 senior executives with the
nation’s 1,000 largest companies.

“The interviewer tends to make a judgment of a candidate within the first 10 minutes,” says Steve Kass, president of the
Great Plains District of Robert Half
International. “That doesn’t mean the interview takes only 10 minutes, just the time to
form an opinion.”

Smart Business talked to Kass about
what candidates should and shouldn’t do
to improve their chances of getting the job.

What do the results from your survey mean to

It’s critical during an interview to get off
to a good start because you’re making an
impression right from the beginning. From
the moment you walk into the office,
everything you do makes an impact. It’s
really important to make that first impression a positive one. This means interviewees must project enthusiasm and a professional demeanor from the outset of the

What are hiring managers looking for during
that first 10 minutes?

Hiring managers want to see that interviewees are confident and enthusiastic
about the opportunity and the company.
They want candidates to quickly describe
why they’re right for the role and show an
understanding of the organization and its
objectives. Also, they are looking for somebody who really wants to be there and communicates that desire to the hiring

If judgment is made so quickly, why does the
interview go on for so much longer?

Employers may be able to form an initial
impression of a candidate in a matter of
minutes, but it’s much harder to gain a full
understanding of a person’s skills and
expertise in that amount of time. Once the
manager has a good first impression, it’s
important to delve into that person’s background to make sure he or she has the right
knowledge and experience to do the job
properly. More time with the interviewee
will allow the hiring manager’s judgment to
evolve even further. Hiring decisions are
expensive decisions. They can make a lot
of money if you make the correct one and
they can cost a lot of money if you make
the wrong one.

If it’s clear that a person is the wrong candidate, is it all right to end the interview early?

Yes. The most important thing to do is
treat interviewees with dignity and respect
and let them know specifically why they’d
not be a good fit. A candidate gets fired up
for a job interview, so you don’t want to put him or her through the unnecessary stress
of the interview process if you know for
certain that the person is not the right

How can hiring managers enhance the

First, managers should evaluate candidate resumes thoroughly and conduct
phone interviews before inviting people for
in-person discussions. During the interview process, hiring managers should conduct a structured interview and know
exactly what they’re looking for in a candidate. Be prepared with specific questions
you want to ask and allow room for follow-up questions based on how the candidate
responds. Know that you will control the
action most of the time, but allow the applicant to do so for a period of time as well.

What advice can you give potential applicants?

Arrive on time, look sharp, be enthusiastic and have a good energy level. Research
the employer and understand what value
you can add to the company. Rehearse the
answers to common questions. When
appropriate, ask questions of the interviewer. Lastly, always follow up the meeting with a thank you note to each person
who interviewed you. This is an opportunity to restate how you can contribute to the
company’s success and express your
enthusiasm for the position.

Things you want to avoid include not
knowing enough about the employer, having a bad attitude or appearing arrogant.
And whatever you do, don’t make a claim
that you can’t back up. Don’t say you’re
good at something specific without being
able to give an example to make your
point. Also, don’t lack confidence or ask
about compensation prematurely. In other
words, be prepared. It’s the most important
part of any interview.

STEVE KASS is president of the Great Plains District of Robert
Half International. Reach him at (312) 616-8200 or
[email protected].