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I've done over 30,000 interviews, says hiring expert: Here are 3 ways to 'instantly impress'

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The first five minutes of a job interview can make or break your odds of landing an offer. 

Those fleeting moments set the tone for the rest of the conversation: If you show up late, unprepared or glued to your phone, it's hard to convince the interviewer that you want the job, even if you are qualified. 

To capture a hiring manager's attention, you need to project a friendly, confident and professional demeanor from the onset, says William Vanderbloemen, the CEO of executive search firm Vanderbloemen Search Group.

Vanderbloemen has interviewed over 30,000 job candidates throughout his career — and the ones who stand out, he says, always do these 3 things to instantly impress a hiring manager during the job interview:

Dress for success

You might have gotten comfortable dressing down for online meetings during the pandemic, but a more casual ensemble isn't going to cut it for a job interview — even if it's on Zoom. 

While it's likely that the interviewer will only see your upper half online, they could catch a glimpse of your sweatpants, depending on the camera angle, Vanderbloemen warns. Some interviewers might even ask you to stand up during a video call, to check that you're wearing professional attire. 

"I know that sounds like old curmudgeon stuff but if you want to impress a recruiter, you really need to dress for the job," he says. "It's an important sign that shows you're taking this opportunity seriously."

Regardless of the interview setting, Vanderbloemen recommends checking out a company's website and social media to figure out what people are wearing to the office or, if the company is remote, to corporate retreats and in-person events. Then, match your outfit accordingly. 

Do your homework

Most people will do basic research on the job they're interviewing for, but few will go the extra mile and become knowledgeable about the company's latest developments or the person they're speaking with.

Vanderbloemen says he's "always impressed" when a candidate has done their homework about the recruiter or interviewer and is up to date on the company's latest news.

You can call out the company's latest earnings report, for example, and compliment where the numbers are strong, or mention a recent article you read about someone who works at the company or a new initiative they're rolling out. 

"If you can show the interviewer in the first 5-10 minutes of the conversation that you invested some time studying this company, you're going to go a long way," says Vanderbloemen. "There's always so much change happening in the labor market that the people who are curious and constantly learning are the ones that are going to be successful."

Don't lead with money 

Asking about a job's salary within the first few minutes of meeting a hiring manager is one of the "quickest ways to start an interview off on the wrong foot," says Vanderbloemen, and yet, "a lot of candidates will make this mistake." 

Doing so "sounds grabby and entitled," Vanderbloemen warns. Instead, you should research the salary range for a role, using free resources like Glassdoor or Payscale, ahead of an interview, and wait for the hiring manager to bring it up.

If you get to a second or third-round interview and pay still hasn't been mentioned, you can broach the subject of compensation toward the end of the conversation. 

Here are two scripts you can follow, as recommended by Vanderbloemen: 

  • "I find it interesting that you haven't brought up salary at all. Why is that?"
  • "I'm really excited about this job. I do need to know how this job would impact my financial well-being. Can you give me an idea of what the salary range for this role is?"

While pay is important, talking less about compensation during an interview might work in your favor. As Vanderbloemen notes: "If a candidate expresses more interest in the mission of a company, its goals and the workplace culture than in compensation, that would just make me do backflips and pay them the highest salary we can offer."

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