7 Ways to Fail an Interview in the First 5 Minutes

May 15, 2019

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Posted by: Lee Sitarz



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The smallest mistake can make the biggest impression.

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When preparing for your upcoming job interview, be aware of the seven ways candidates often fail in the first five minutes of their interview.

1. You Can’t Describe the Company

Interviews often open with a question about the company. An interviewer will quickly lose confidence in you if you don’t know what the company does, values, or sells, and they’ll wonder why you applied in the first place. It’s easy to conduct research beforehand, and you want to appear prepared by knowing some basic information about the organization.

Your interviewer doesn’t expect you to deliver an expert opinion on their business strategy, but you should be able to provide a concise statement about what the company does. It’s a minimum requirement to know about the business’s products and services.

2. You’re Not Properly Dressed

First impressions matter, and a poor outfit choice might be the only thing your interviewer notices within the first five minutes. During your company research, review their culture to determine how formal or laidback the dress code may be. Keep in mind that being overdressed is always preferred to being underdressed.

Regardless of the position you’ve applied to, make sure you look professional during the interview. Wear an interview outfit that fits well, is clean, and is wrinkle-free.

3. You Look Unprepared

The interviewer will takes note if you remember to bring key things to the interview. They’ll notice your resume and notepad laid out on the table. Even though most hiring managers will bring your resume with them, seeing you with an extra copy makes you look thoughtful and prepared.

4. You Have Bad Manners

Good manners go a long way.

If you’re chewing gum, discard it before arriving at the office. On your way in, extend a polite nod to everyone you meet—from the receptionist to the security guard. Shake hands when it’s appropriate. Stand up straight and don’t forget to smile.

5. You Arrive Late

Your interviewer is busy. They may have several interviews lined up that day. Showing up late makes a bad impression in the first five minutes of the interview.

A good rule of thumb is to arrive ten minutes early. You can relax, have a drink, and review your interview strategy. Give yourself extra time to get to the office, and map out the route the night before so you know where you’re going.

6. You’re Low on Enthusiasm

Showing enthusiasm will make you appear more excited about the role and the company. Showing a lack of enthusiasm, such as having slumped shoulders, making little to no eye contact, and not smiling, are nonverbal cues that can make a poor impression.

Project energy and enthusiasm by shaking hands, smiling, and appearing glad to be there. Those first five minutes are crucial for creating a strong first impression, and this time sets the tone for the rest of the interview.

7. You Skipped the Small Talk

Personality and cultural fit are important. Small talk is how people build rapport and get to know each other better.

Fortunately, you can get better at small talk. Whether you talk about the commute or last night’s sports game, these warm-up questions highlight your interpersonal skills before moving into the job-related questions.

If you find yourself struggling with one of the scenarios above, It’s not all bad news: You can come back from a bad interview.


Lee Sitarz

Lee Sitarz

Lee earned a degree in marketing from York University, which has helped her succeed in various roles in the staffing industry. She has over 20 years of progressive staffing experience including Branch Management, Sales, Operations, and Marketing. Lee is active at giving back to her community, and spends her down time with her husband and three beautiful daughters.

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