The 90-Second Interview – Part 1

12 July 2016
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They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Well, according to a survey done by UndercoverRecruiter, you barely get a first chance to make a first impression when it comes to an interview. As far as the 2,000 hiring managers surveyed are concerned, if you haven’t convinced them in 90 seconds that you’re the (wo)man for the job, your chances of landing the role are slim. This is commonly known as “the halo effect”, which professional interviewers should be well aware of and trained to avoid.

Interestingly enough, it would seem that what you say has a lot less impact than what you don’t say. Non-verbal mistakes are, ultimately, far more likely to unravel your interview – from the start.

So, what might you be doing to sabotage that crucial first minute-and-a-half?

Touching your hair/face

Try and resist the temptation to keep adjusting your fringe. Playing with your hair is a nervous tic – and it’s completely normal to revert to this in stressful situations. However, displaying nervous behaviour will make you look just that – nervous. Leave it alone if you can.

Weak handshake

If there’s one thing sure to make a bad impression, it’s a limp handshake. If your handshake has no substance, it’s indicative of subordination or weakness – not a great start in an interview. Make eye contact, smile, and shake firmly (without crushing any hands). It will do wonders for asserting your presence.

No eye contact

As above, eye contact is a must. You will look shifty if you can’t look the hiring manager in the eye. You want to give a clear impression of your honesty and openness – so don’t give in to the temptation to look at the floor, or you may unwittingly be suggesting you have something to hide.

No smile

You’re not having a passport photo taken – so get a (not too manic) smile on your face!

Not smiling is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Job interviews are supposed to be exciting. You’re meeting your potential new colleagues, new boss, new office dog, etc… and none of them will want to work with you if your face looks like a wet weekend. Smiling will instantly make you look more positive, approachable, and enthusiastic – so leave the frosty expressions at home.

Professional ≠ Serious.

Bad posture

We’re all guilty of slouching at our desks every now and again. However, in an interview, this can look like a display of boredom, tiredness, or a general lack of engagement. You want to appear alert, awake, and on form – sit up straight and hold your poise.


Fidgeting, like touching your hair/face, is another sign you might not be completely focused on the task at hand, or that you’re feeling the pressure. Consciously put your hands in a comfortable, relaxed position and leave them there for as much of the interview as possible. This way, you are avoiding the temptation to fiddle with your bag strap or hair.

Crossing arms

This position just screams “I’m defensive”, when you’re trying to appear approachable to the hiring manager, not closed off. A defensive posture will suggest belligerence and hostility, in a situation where you want to portray the absolute opposite.

Too many hand gestures

If you have a tendency to gesticulate when you’re excited, it’s good to be mindful of this. You don’t need ostentatious gestures to make your point, even if it comes naturally to you to do this. Focus on what you are saying – this way, your verbal ability will shine through, and you can articulate your knowledge without distraction.

What are the worst non-verbal mistakes you have made or seen in an interview situation?

The 90-Second Interview – Part 1