The First Ten Minutes of an Interview | No BS Job Search Advice

The First Ten Minutes of an Interview

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

The first ten minutes can put you in a position to win the job . . or not.

The hardest part of getting a job is getting the interview. In my observation, 60% of getting a job is already accomplished by the time you walk in the door for the interview, From there, 20% is involved with convincing one another that what you’ve been told about each other (in the resume or by the recruiter) is true and 20% is purely subjective—is this the Waiting for interviewkind of person who would fit into our corporate culture? Are these the kind of people I would like to work for? Each of you needs to score an “A” in the course.

In my way of thinking, you can’t control the performance of the interviewer, but you can put your own mind in focus. Arrive at the interview location a few minutes early in order to give yourself a few minutes to focus your concentration. Wait in the lobby of the building or in your car for a few minutes to mentally prepare yourself. This also serves the double purpose of allowing you to cool off in summer or warm up in winter (There a few things worse than shaking hands with a popcycle in winter or with a sweaty hand in summer).

When it is time to meet your party, go to the designated place and introduce yourself to the receptionist.

“Hi, my name is Jeff Altman. I have a [10:30] appointment with Terry Samuels.” Speak to them with courtesy; if you don’t, I can assure you that they will mention something to the interviewer about your behavior toward them.

Sit facing the greatest number of entry points into the room so that you can see someone approaching you.I remember meeting a client at a bank and someone was meeting with another person in the same department. They sat in a seat where their person who comes to greet them from behind their right shoulder so that they would never see them coming. The person heard their name called and was startled because they did not see or sense the person approaching. They then had to fold their copy of the New York Times back into place, pick up their raincoat and place it over their arm and shake hands with the interviewer without appearing rattled. They did a miserable job of that and I am sure they were not hired.

If you are given an application, fill it out accurately. Do not write “see resume” and hand it back to the receptionist. Applications are legal documents; failure to complete an application accurately can be grounds for being fired if the lie is uncovered after you join.

As soon as the interviewer comes out to greet you, stand, shake hands (unless there are religious or cultural taboos that prohibit you from doing so) and immediately size up the interviewer in your mind. Are they smart (or not)? Aggressive or not)? As you speak with them deal with them as your original judgment indicates you should. After all, in most socialInterviewer situations, your instincts would be right.

Unfortunately, because it’s MY CAREER! IT’S IMPORTANT! I’VE GOT TO GET THIS JOB! Voices speaking in their heads, many people paralyze their good decisioning to “feel out” the interviewer. Unfortunately, by doing this, people are withholding their personality for fear of making a mistake . . . yet 95 times out of 100, a person’s instincts are right.

So, if I told you that you were going to play craps at Las Vegas and win 85 times out of 100, would you worry about losing? Of course not! The same thing is true in an interview. Just trust your gut on this and don’t worry about being wrong.

Most people I know are not skilled enough as speakers to be able to keep another person’s attention for very long so, in general, I want you to keep a clock in your mind as you answer questions and try to answer any question put to you in 30-45 seconds so that you can keep the interview interactive. You don’t want to take too long to answer a question and risk having the interviewer’s mind drift to a project they have to get back to, a meeting they need to prepare for, or thoughts about the last conversation they had with their wife or husband.

Now, if you don’t believe me, I want you to do an experiment. Ask someone to listen to you speak for one minute about a subject that you can speak knowledgeably about. Ask them to raise their hand whenever their mind drifts to something else. 15 seconds? 20 seconds? Most people do not have great attention spans. Interviewers are no different.

Most interviews are going to start with an open-ended question designed to free you up to speak. Something like, “Tell me about yourself and what you’ve been doing professionally?”

This question and others like it can be translated into “Summarize your resume and tell me about your experience that relates to the job you are interviewing for?”

Your answer should be something along the lines of, “I’ve been in the field for about ___ years. For the past ______ years, I’ve been working for ____________ where I have been responsible for ______________. Before that, I worked for (so and so and so and so) where I was responsible for (this and that).” If you are in a technical discipline, use non-technical language and little detail when you answer the opening question in order to demonstrate that you can communicate with non-technical personnel.

Remember that I said to keep your answer to 30-45 seconds? By doing this you will have (1) given an answer the confirms the basic reasons why you were invited in for the interview, all in 30 – 45 seconds, and (2) Given the interviewer an outline of your experience that will (3) allow them to frame their follow up questions in a way that you can (4) anticipate and be prepared for while (5) making the interview interactive. Not bad for such a brief answer!

By taking some time to put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes, you can anticipate follow-up questions they might ask and be prepared for them.

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes for a moment. If you were them trying to hire you for this job, what would they want to know about you in order to be certain that you have the skills necessary to do this job? Don’t just wait for them to ask you about it. Volunteer the information as part of an answer to a question.

Proper preparation allows you to demonstrate a great fit for the job and capture the attention of the interviewer. Without their interest and eventual support for your candidacy, you will be looking for a job a lot longer than you really need to.



JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? Schedule a free Discovery call.

If you have a quick question for me, you can get it answered with a 3-5 minute video at Want to do it live?

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

If you want to learn how to interview like a pro, order “The Ultimate Job Interview Framework” from The Kindle and print versions are available on Amazon.

Connect with me on LinkedIn. Like me on Facebook.

Join and attend my classes on Skillshare.Become a premium member and get 2 months free.

Watch my videos on YouTube at, the Job SearchTV app for FireTV, Roku or a firestick or for AppleTV, and 90 smart tv platforms.

You can order a copy of “Diagnosing Your Job Search Problems” for Kindle on Amazon and receive free Kindle versions of “No BS Resume Advice” and “Interview Preparation.” If you are starting your search, order, “Get Ready for the Job Jungle.”

Don’t forget to give the show 5 stars and a good review in iTunes. It helps other people discover the show as you did.

About the author

Leave a Comment, Thought, Opinion. Speak like you're speaking with someone you love.

%d bloggers like this: