How to Lose a Job Interview in the 1st 30 Seconds

Sep 5, 2018 8:40:00 AM

Imagine walking into an interview for an executive position at a $2 Billion dollar company dressed in shorts, sandals and a t-shirt, holding a red Solo cup. You’d be out of there in a few seconds, escorted by a security officer at each elbow.

In this case, two factors, the same two factors in play for every single job you’ll ever go after, went into play the moment you entered the room, and those two factors sunk you in seconds.

The first is Relevancy. What did you bring to the encounter that would allow the interviewer to see you as a potential solution to their biggest problem? You brought the opposite of what they were looking for or expecting.

Strike One.

The second factor is Likability. What did you do to endear yourself to your interviewer? Well, you insulted him in two different ways. You dressed for a day at the beach AND you made it very clear that you are not taking the hiring process seriously at all... and you did it all in a split-second.

Strike Two.

Finally, you demonstrated by strikes one and two that you knew nothing about the job, so your pre-interview research portrayed a terrible sense of how you would perform once on the job.

Strike Three.

And notice how this took much LESS than 30 seconds? The first impression is one of the most powerful forces in the universe; like nuclear energy or compound interest. Treat it with respect.

Now…want to know how to ace that same interview?

Read on.

Imagine walking into the interview preceded by an impeccably-dressed butler who announces your arrival in a perfect British accent, then politely steps aside as you stroll past him with a warm smile and an outreached hand.

You’re dressed slightly down from your butler, but you’re “put together” quite well.

You shake hands firmly (but not too firmly), and immediately engage your interviewer with a delightful story you read about him online. You make him feel like he’s the only person in the world right now. Then you talk about how excited you are to have this chance to share your ideas on how to make his operation more effective.

Relevancy and Likability.

But wait, you say. I don’t have a butler. No, of course not. That would be silly. But you do have a resume, and you can write it so that it introduces you in a most engaging way.

But let get back to the interview and how to win it.

I read a figure the other day that really brought it home for me: The VP of People Operations at Google, Lazlo Bock, surmised that 99.4% of interview time is spent on what is called “confirmation bias” - the first 10 seconds of the first impression.


Confirmation bias is a well-documented principle that says we build a quick first impression of someone or something, and then our brain spends a tremendous amount of energy looking for other aspects of that person or thing that will confirm the first impression or mental hypothesis—whether it’s accurate or not. This has served us for hundreds of thousands of years in getting out of potentially harmful situations. You brain helps you confirm your first gut feeling, good or bad, and most of the time, that feeling just amplifies.


So how can you use this to your advantage in a high-stakes interview?

First, you can “pre-sell” yourself with a world class resume. If you want a $200K position, does your resume look like someone worth $200K? If not, get help with it. In essence, it’s a persuasion document - so write it as such! Most resumes for people wanting multiple six-figures make them look like a $75K person at best. Not good. Let me throw in a great LinkedIn profile as well, as they WILL look you up before they call you.

Secondly, do your homework on the company and the interviewer so you can immediately build a connection with them.

To do this, check three things:

Using Google Chrome as your browser, look up the company, along with the corporate city and state (to make sure you’ve got the right search results) and look at 5-6 pages of search results. Even if the results start to lose relevance in two pages, keep looking. You might find a gem of a press release from 8 months ago on page 6. You want to learn all there is about them outside of their website.

Look up the person you’re interviewing with on Stay away from sponsored results, but you’ll find all their profiles, their age, the people in their household, and any online contribution they’ve made.

Finally, don’t forget to look the interviewer up on sites like Facebook and YouTube. If they ever spoke at a conference, or if they like the same rock band you do, you can bring this up quickly as a means of connecting with them. No, it’s not considered stalking anymore – it’s considered doing your research and taking the process seriously!

Spending a half hour researching the company and the interviewer before a big interview will definitely pay off. And remember - the first 30 seconds counts. So build that warm fuzzy connection! 

Relevancy and likability are the keys to winning the job, and the first 30 seconds seals in the likability factor.

 Here’s to a highly productive week and a very successful search!

For information on how Career Resume Consulting can maximize your chances of winning a high-stakes interview, click on the link below for more information about our Six Figure Finish Line program.

Learn More About This Program

Tammy Kabell

Written by Tammy Kabell

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