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The most important 30 seconds of your career?

The most important 30 seconds of your career?

Making a good first impression can make or break a job interview. But what’s the best way to do it? Quora users shared their secrets on making the most of those crucial first moments.

Gibbering? Stumbling? Reviewing past failures?

No, it’s not a first date – welcome to the first-round job interview.

Short and sweet While it’s tempting to think your natural and effortless charm is enough to create a first impression that will wow an interviewer, there are some common mistakes many people make at the very start of a job interview. For some tips and tricks, we went to question-and-answer site Quora, which asked what can you do to make a great first impression when you introduce yourself in an interview?

Once you enter the room you have just 30 seconds to make a good impression, wrote recruiter Adam Seabrook. But impressing the interviewer can start before you’re even through the door. “Be amazingly nice to everyone. I had one sneaky client who used to go out and ask the receptionist how the candidates [had] acted pre-interview. If he came back with a thumbs down, then they would reject the candidate.” According to Seabrook, if you are rude or dismissive with the receptionist, you can expect that to get passed back to whoever you just met.

Instead, tweak your introduction depending on the audience — highlight the bits of your career, your interests, accomplishments, education and hobbies that match the company and interviewer. Recruiter Mira Zaslove advised keeping your introduction positive and simple: “Don't ramble on for too long.”

Be nice to the receptionist - they may make or break the interview (Credit: Alamy)

“Focus on what is directly relevant to the job you are interviewing for, and for the person interviewing you. Keep in mind an interview is generally not about how smart you are, or how great of a person you are. It is about your fit for a specific job.” 

She warned that most interviewers don't have long attention spans, so candidates should use their time wisely. “Don't assume that your interviewer has read your resume [CV]. However, don't simply recite [it] verbatim.”

Keep your sense of humour

How should you introduce yourself? “Like a normal person,” wrote Chris Lynam. “Employers want people to be professional, but not robots.”

He gave an example: “We had a girl come to interview named Fatima,” he wrote. “Wanting to be correct I asked her, ‘Do you pronounce your name ‘Fah-tima’ or ‘Fateema’?’ Her response, ‘either way, you can call me Fatty if you want to’.” 

Stats on hand This went down well with Lynam. “I laughed and thought, ‘hired!’... And we did.” 

It’s okay not to have anything special to say about yourself, but you must demonstrate you have at least the minimum requirements for the job, wrote Valerie Cooper. “Some good things to have on hand are any figures you can give related to improvements you made during your previous position. Do you know what percentage increase in sales your contribution made, for instance?” 

If you are young and inexperienced, try to come across as enthusiastic and smart (Credit: iStock)

Cooper wrote that if you don't know how you contribute to your current employer's bottom line, find out and track that information: “It's essential to your career mobility.”

Don’t sweat it

But it’s not always a deal-breaker if you can’t show any hard-and-fast contributions to previous roles, especially if you’re looking for an internship, wrote Kaitlyn Hanrahan. “No one gives business-critical tasks to interns. They hope that they will add something of value,” she wrote. “Just try to come across as an enthusiastic smart young person.

“In theory, if you've made it to the interview, you are qualified for the job. It's just a matter of personality/culture fit and picking the best candidate at that point.”

Quora respondents are required to use their true names under the site’s Real Names policy. To help ensure legitimacy and quality, Quora asks some individuals, such as doctors and lawyers, to confirm their expertise.