5 Tips To Nailing Your Job Interview in The First 5 Minutes

Ryan Ong



There are three humiliating experiences no one should ever have to bear:  getting slapped, being judged at a job interview, and having Happy Birthday sung at you in Fish & Co. (in order of severity). To avoid that, wow the interviewer from the start. Here’s how:


The First Five Minutes

According to senior career consultant Albert Chiang, the first five minutes can determine whether you’re hired.

You’ve probably heard of good chemistry and bad chemistry. How that works is that, when we first meet someone, we scan through a fairly large list of features – clothes, tone, body language – and in the the first five minutes we make evaluations on the subject’s competence, friendliness, and background.

Most hiring managers admit to eventually hiring the one they had ‘a good feeling’ about from the get go.”

While it’s not an exact science, Albert says there’s a few ways you can create an immediate impact. They’re not as obvious as you think:

  • Stand, Don’t Sit
  • Use the Interviewer’s Name
  • Talk about Them First
  • Present a To-Do Plan
  • Dress to Fit the Culture


1. Stand, Don’t Sit

There are a lot of cockamamie reasons people will give you for this. But according to Albert, it’s not about body language but the way your voice comes out.

Try it yourself: Sit for a few minutes, the stand up and immediately introduce yourself.

Now try it without sitting. Keep standing for a few minutes, and then introduce yourself. You’ll notice the former produces a slight wheeze – or lack of breath, if you eat as many Pringles as me.

When you rise from a sitting to a standing position, your tone of voice is momentarily softer and sounds less confident” Albert says, “When you must rise from a sitting position, try taking a deep breath before you get up and speak.”


2. Use the Interviewer’s Name

The easiest way to build rapport, and show you’re listening, is to refer to a new acquaintance by name. Oddly, not a lot of Singaporeans do this.

Most people forget the interviewer’s name, out of nervousness. But by remembering it, you show that you’re truly interested in the person you’re speaking to,” Albert says, “Refer to the interviewer by their name once or twice in the first few minutes. Don’t do it too often, or it will start to sound really contrived.”

Easy to say Albert. If you’re like me, nervousness and Michael Bay movies have the same effect (e.g. five minutes on, I’m just confused and don’t remember a single person’s name).

Then  re-affirm their name when shaking hands. If his name is Tommy Liew then repeat ‘Mr. Liew,’ as you shake hands. Besides showing that you registered their name, you are also more likely to remember it.”


3. Talk about Them First

Ask the interviewer how business is, or how their various projects are,” Albert says, “You should know all this from doing research beforehand. Interviewers are most impressed when you can start by addressing their needs, even before they present them to you.”

What about those interviewers who open with “Tell me about yourself”?

Then as you are talking about yourself, steer the conversation back to them. Explain how your skills and experiences can help them.”

This leads to the next part:


4. Present a To-Do Plan

This is a roster of benefits you can provide, assuming you’re hired. The plan should be based on what the company needs, or probably needs. You get that by studying them in-depth, even before the first meeting.

Most candidates are quite passive, waiting to be asked questions that they then struggle to answer,” Albert says, “The advantage to showing interviewers a plan first is that, in a way, you get to choose the questions. You are identifying problems that you have already prepared the solutions to.”

As an alternative, Albert suggests you can ask them what they most need at present.

Then write down the problems as the interviewer explains them, and afterwards go through the list describing how you would try to solve each one.”


5. Dress to Fit the Culture

In MoneySmart, this means turning up in a three week old singlet, and shorts that looked like an insurgent wore them through five battles. If you show up with a T-shirt design that’s actually clever, we appoint you CEO.

(Actually only Ryan’s allowed to dress like that, and only on days when we take his leash off. – Ed.)

Albert knows the importance of fitting the culture:

Try to get a sense of how the people there dress, and be a little bit more formal. So if it’s serious office wear, then you’d better be dressed to the nines in a great suit. If everyone is wearing a T-Shirt and jeans, then maybe wear a shirt but lose the tie.

You want to look impressive, but not formal or stuffy.”

How did you ace your last interview? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.