I just returned from a two-hour and very challenging interview for a position as a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative with a huge local drug company. I was drilled by a panel of four interviewers. I was sweating from the stress. The questions were exactly the ones I had prepared for and I believe I responded accurately, professionally and demonstrated my skills and experience relevant for the position.
To be honest, I had a strange feeling from the get-go. It was non-verbal. The interviewers seemed to be distant when they asked the questions. I felt like they were doing me a favour. I felt that they lost interest in my answers. The atmosphere seemed tense to me. I think I am being paranoid and maybe this is because of the typical anxiety caused by interviews.
At the end of the interview, one of the hiring managers said to me that they will be interviewing other candidates and will get back to me after the interview. My heart sunk. I realized that my intuition was correct. The panel seemed to make a decision quite quickly that I was not in the running.
Please could you give me some feedback about this interview so that I can have some closure and peace of mind. Thanks so much.
Signed: Peace of Mind
Dear ‘Peace of Mind’,
You are definitely onto something. I feel for the difficulty of this interview and cannot imagine how stressful it must have been.
In the meantime, there is a lesson to be learned here. According to TheHeadhunters.ca blog, research has indicated that interviewers make decisions about candidates very quickly; in fact, they decide in the first 30 seconds to 2.5 minutes.
According to a recent survey conducted by Accountemps, a division of Robert Half International, job seekers don’t have much time to spare when it comes to impressing a hiring manager. More than half (52 per cent) of HR managers surveyed said they form a positive or negative opinion of interviewees in 10 minutes or less.
This tendency to make initial judgements — positive or negative — about a candidate in those first few moments is called ‘first impression error’, continues Headhunters, and after that first impression is made, most hiring managers will then spend the remainder of the interview searching for validation of that initial decision. Often hiring managers and decision makers make mistakes in hiring the wrong person because they have developed an inaccurate perception of the candidate and do not have sufficient information to make an informed decision! For what it’s worth, Headhunters adds that “the first impressions from the candidate’s physical appearance, dress, tone of voice and other non-verbal cues are not reliable indicators of job performance; most managers will think of it as ‘gut feeling’ but really it’s an error in their interview approach and one that can cost them great employees”.
But do not despair. There are some solid techniques that you can apply to make a good first impression, recommended by the JVS Employment Counsellors (check out our blog post on this topic), as well as Raffi Toughlouian, Division Director of Accountemps.
1. Be prepared. Take with you a professional looking binder containing:
- several copies of your resume
- a list of references (only present this when asked)
- the questions you want to ask the interviewer
- copies of credentials and licenses
- paper and pen
If you have a portfolio, don’t forget to bring that as well.
2. Be early: Arrive about ten minutes before the interview time.
3. Walk in with confidence and energy, but do not be overly confident. It’s a balance, Raffi adds: “It’s important to present your accomplishments in a positive light with a good amount of enthusiasm, but exhibiting arrogance can dissuade a hiring manager in selecting you from the other applicants.”
4. Greet the assistant or receptionist with a SMILE and speak respectfully and professionally. It’s not just the interviewer you need to impress! “Remember to be courteous with everyone you meet. Your politeness can help you not only impress the hiring manager, but since many employers ask everyone – from administrative staff to members of their department – for feedback, this may be a key factor in setting yourself apart”, said Raffi.
5. Pay attention to details: extend a firm handshake, maintain eye contact and present a professional image. This includes ensuring you are properly groomed, as well as having shoes shined, clothing pressed and nails cleaned/trimmed. Do not wear perfume or lots of jewellery. Keep your physical presentation professional and neat.
6. Take note of your surroundings, perhaps reading some informative material about the company. Do not pace the floor. Be aware the receptionist may be watching you, and may describe your waiting room manner to the employer. If you need to present your portfolio, bring your laptop; but, please remember to turn off your cell phone!
7. Be ready to shake hands. Be alert and quick to respond to the interviewer both at the beginning and end of the interview. If the interviewer offered to shake hands at the beginning, then you should offer it at the end. Remember, if the interviewer offers to shake hands, part of the decision to hire or not hire may be based on your response and the warmth and assertiveness of your grasp.
This is an opportunity for you to self-reflect on the first impression that you made, see where the gaps are and how you might improve for the next interview you have. I suggest practising the interview (and handshake) by role-playing with your Employment Counsellor, a family member or friend to get some concrete feedback.
Good luck with your next interview.
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