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by Sara Pacelle

That five minute walk is key.

I recently spoke with a seasoned hiring manager at a major financial institution in Boston.  It was a perfect opportunity to lap up any drops of hiring wisdom she’d send my way.  This time she told me something really interesting.  Over her long career in which she has conducted scores of interviews, she has developed a fail-proof way of “sizing up” a job candidate within the first five minutes of meeting them.

How? 

She escorts them back to her office taking the long circuitous route.   She calls it the Five-Minute Walk.

During those five minutes she doesn’t say anything.  Not a syllable.  She waits for the candidate to speak.

The smart ones will have researched the company and its location and have a short conversational story to share about the building or a newsworthy item about the firm.    The story will be engaging and friendly, yet always professional, and tends to set that same tone for the rest of the interview.  

“I understand this building used to be the site of an old knitting mill.  When did your firm move here?” or “I read recently that your company was a sponsor of the….” 

Its inappropriate to fill the silence with a dive deep into the interview at that point.  It is appropriate to show that you’re confident and personable and know how to initiate a conversation.

The unprepared ones will either remain silent, awkward, waiting for her to speak or worse yet, will blabber on and on nervously about some inane, boring and unrelated topics.

She recommends that candidates do a little research and prepare some time-filling, pleasant dialogue to keep the mood relaxed and cordial.  Setting the tone at the beginning of the dialogue can help further your cause throughout the rest of the interview.