First 60 seconds of an interview can be everything

Sep 30th, 2009 | By | Category: News

* First impressions in a job interview can mean everything.
* Great resumes, great cover letter connect instantly.
* Portfolios should start with the best, not chronologically.

This essay is one of more than a dozen from “Breaking In: The Guide to Newspaper Internships.”

Assistant managing editor/news
The Detroit News

Sixty seconds. S-I-X-T-Y seconds. That’s all you get.

Whether it’s in the reading of your cover letter, the browsing of your resume, or after you’ve sat down for that all-important job interview.

All you get, Mr. or Ms. Job Candidate, is 60 seconds.

Within that 60 seconds, most job interviewers, I suspect, make a decision on whether it’s worth their time to pursue you as a job candidate for any potential opening at their respective organizations.

Sixty seconds. That’s right. And I may be a little generous here.

Think I’m pulling your leg? Think about it. And 60 seconds is really a lot longer than you think.

Take a break right now. Spend the next 60 seconds doing absolutely nothing. You can stare at this sentence. You can stare at your watch. But other than that relax and do nothing else.

Hold on … Keep holding on.

Did you think that minute would ever end? Well that eternity is just long enough for an employer to assess your ability to sell yourself. And the question each job candidate needs to answer: Are you using your 60 seconds wisely?

If you sit down for an interview and it takes forever to tell the employer what job you are seeking and why you think you’re qualified to fill that position, you’ve wasted your 60 seconds.

Walter T. Middlebrook

Walter T. Middlebrook

If your resume starts off listing your educational achievements while you’re really seeking full-time employment as a copy editor or news producer, you’ve wasted your 60 seconds.

If your cover letter is a rehash of your resume instead of telling a great story about how you approach your work or how you’ve impressed your former employers, you’ve wasted your 60 seconds.

It is these subtle time-consuming actions that can hurt a job candidate’s hiring quotient. You’ve got 60 seconds. Use them wisely.

A cover letter is one of the best opportunities to show your writing skills. But if it’s the “I am … , I did … , I was … “ formatted letter, you’ve wasted your 60 seconds. And there is nothing in your packet that’s going to make any potential employer visualize the creativity that you contend is hidden in your soul once they’ve reached that conclusion.

Look at that clip file or the tape you’ve been passing out. If your best two or three stories are not leading the pack, you have wasted your 60 seconds.

A young man’s packet arrived on my desk some time ago. After the first eight horribly written stories, I came across a jewel in his packet. “Do you think an editor has the time to read through all this to find this story?” I asked. By the time most editors would have gotten through the first four stories, they would have determined that this young man could not write. These editors might never have seen that ninth story, I suggested.

His response: “I put them in chronological order.”

If you want someone to get interested in you, you’d better use your 60 seconds to hit that employer with your best shot. Don’t worry about chronology, unless you’re trying to show the progression of a series of stories. Show your work—best to worse.

Walter T. Middlebrook, assistant managing editor for news at The Detroit News, has been associate editor for recruitment at Newsday, where he was responsible for all newsroom recruiting and the paper’s internship programs. He also oversaw the Tribune Co.’s METpro/Editing program.

Take your resume: Why hide your contact information? Why hide what kind of work you can do or that you want to do? Why hide your qualifications? And if you’re thinking about a career/job change, tell the employer where you see yourself going and how it fits in that company’s picture. And do it in that first 60 seconds.

Hiding your address, phone numbers, and e-mail address (if you included it at all), is not helping your cause. Permanent addresses are a must. If you’re in the early stages of your career, you’re going to move.

If an employer has to search to find you, your 60 seconds have been wasted.

The simple rule: Don’t make a potential employer have to work to find out about you. Give up that information right away. That gives you more time to sell yourself.

Job candidates must look upon their resume, their cover letter, their interview just as they look at the lead of that Page One news story that’s being prepared for tomorrow’s publication or tonight’s newscasts.

Get to the facts, and do it in that first 60 seconds. Tick, tick, tick.

* 10 strategies for landing internships

* Also from the book: Is this job the right fit for you?

Think of this as a free sample. You can find more internship strategies in “Breaking In: The guide to Newspaper Internships.”

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3 Comments to “First 60 seconds of an interview can be everything”

  1. Dan Burns says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve spent a career helping people effectively manage the first 60 seconds and the time prior to a first meeting to make a great first impression. I thought you might be interested in taking a look at my book.


    Dan Burns
    The First 60 Seconds: Win The Job Interview Before It Begins

  2. [...] Also from the book: You’ve got 60 seconds. Spend them wisely. Share and [...]

  3. [...] Poza 2: [...]

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