How To Break Through The 30 Second Interview Barrier – and get on the road to your dream job.

Last updated on March 31st, 2017 at 07:57 pm

interviewbook coverYou Have 30 Seconds To Impress an Interviewer, because within this short time, they will make a decision as to whether you are the right or wrong candidate for the job, research shows.

What is the 30 Second Interview Barrier?

We have all heard the expression that first impressions last. But, how many of us knew that there is scientific evidence to back this notion up? Yes, it seems that people (including job interviewers), actually do make their minds up about you, (candidates) after just a few seconds, in fact, in 30 seconds or less. I call it the the 30 Second Interview Barrier. It seems that by the time the interviewer has greeted you, shaken your hand and shown you to your seat, they have already made a decision about you, that is, you have been judged.

Scientific Evidence…

I am sure that some of you may have had a gut feeling about this notion of a 30 second interview barrier, but did you know there was science to back it up? Well, there are two such studies that support this idea I have outlined them below.

1. Harvard Study; lasting impression formed within 2 seconds

In this Harvard study by Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal, teaching fellows from Harvard were taped and a 10-second silent piece of this video was shown to outside observers. These observers were asked to rate each teacher using a 15-item check-list of personality traits.

Two other sets of observers viewed a 5 second and 2 second segment of that video, and guess what, the personality ratings remained the same. They concluded that all the crucial personality assessment occurred within 2 seconds, yes 2 seconds!So, we are not looking at a 30 second interview barrier but a 2 second one!

The most concerning thing here is that the conclusions that these observer’s made about the teachers personality – based on 2 seconds of video and without having met them – were very similar to the conclusions reached by the teacher’s students after an entire semesters/term’s exposure.

So, this suggests that the impression that is formed in the first two seconds (possibly of the candidate by the interviewer), really will last long after the interview process is over. So, if you make a bad impression in those first 2 seconds you are unlikely to be able to change it during the subsequent interview process.

2. University of Toledo; lasting impression formed within 30 seconds

In this study, the researchers trained a group of interviewers to evaluate job applicants and between them they conducted 59 20 minute interviews, with each video being taped, and after the interview, the interviewers completed a four page evaluation of the applicant.

The researchers then edited the tape to show the brief minute of exchanged greetings and seat taking – and there was no time for any questions. There were 59 video clips of between 20 and 32 seconds. Then twenty untrained evaluators saw these mini-clips and assessed the interview subjects on 12 traits such as self-assurance, likeability and competence.

The surprise here was that the untrained evaluators who saw mini-clips gave similar personality ratings to the trained interviewers who conducted much longer encounters.

The researchers concluded from this that, “people do really judge books by their covers”, and “First impressions are going to predict final impressions”.

How To Break The 30 Second Interview Barrier

So, it seems like you have no more than 30 seconds to impress your interviewer and here are 5 tips to help you do this.

1.Develop an impeccable social media personal and professional brand.

Why? Interviewers can now do detailed personality profiles of you via Facebook and your social media updates and discussions which means they may already start forming their opinion of your personality before you even walk in the door.

2.Greeting the interviewer

Make sure to provide a firm handshake as this will demonstrate conviction and confidence. A good handshake consists of four things:

  • Hold the person’s hand firmly, or at least match the pressure they apply
  • Shake three times as a maximum
  • Maintain eye contact while shaking hands
  • Smile and look positive


Good posture suggests self-confidence. When standing, keep your back straight, stomach in, head up and shoulders back; never slouch or put your hands in your pocket. When taking your seat at interview, once again, do not slouch, but rather maintain an upright position as this will make you look engaged and alert.

4.Dress To Impress

Develop a professional interview wardrobe for interview and ensure shoes are clean/polished and clothes are clean and pressed.

5.Personal Grooming

This may seem obvious to many, but be sure to well groomed prior to each interview.

This is just a starter and there are many more tips and advice on the internet which will help you to make an effective first impression at interview and break through the 30 second interview barrier and put you on the road to your dream job.


If you are still struggling to perform well at interview, I recommend that you download my powerful interview coaching e-book, titled, 9 Essential Steps to Prepare For Interview.

Written by An Experienced HR Professional, This Interview Preparation Guide Optimizes Your Interview Performance, and increases your chance of being hired, by enabling you to both pre-empt and prepare for questions that you are likely to be asked, and shows you how to answer those questions in the most optimal way. Download it today.

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