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by Joe Turner, the Job Search Guy™ | July 16, 2009


If you’re watching the hit TV show “So You Think You Can Dance”, you’re in good company. Winning its Wednesday nighttime slot, this popular reality TV show is full of lessons for job hunters because you’re viewing one huge job interview. The winner receives a whopping $250,000.00 in prize money and the title “America’s Favorite Dancer”.


Nigel Lythgoe, an executive producer of the show and one of its colorful judges, offered the following “Guide to a Good Audition” during a recent episode.  You might not be auditioning for a dance role, but you could benefit from these same tips for your next interview:




Lythgoe offers this advice to all the aspiring dancers whose immediate goal is to impress the judges enough to send them to round two of the contest, held in Las Vegas.   Same applies to you in your first interview, whether it's face-to-face or on the phone.  If you want to hear the equivalent of, “You’re going to Vegas!” you better make a good first impression.


University of Toledo psychology professor, Dr. Frank Bernieri, noted in The Topeka Capital-Journal,that first impressions are formed within 30 seconds and often make the crucial difference in a job interview or a first date.


"It takes only three to five seconds to make a first impression, but it can take a whole career to undo it," according to Dana May Casperson, author of Power Etiquette: What You Don't Know Can Kill Your Career, as noted in a USA Today article.


Robert Half Finance & Accounting, the largest specialized financial recruitment service, further confirmed this for the interview process in a study.  They found that,"Hiring managers often know whether they might hire someone soon after the opening handshake and small talk".  The average time to form this opinion was only 10 minutes, even though the interviews averaged between 55 to 86 minutes.  


Given these statistics, it is imperative to make a good first impression to win that job. So, what is YOUR best first move?


In the interview, like the dance show, you'll need to develop their interest in you.  Know something about the company, know your "brand" - who you are and what you offer.  Then, be ready to dazzle them.  Reinforce the initial impression they have with several of your "stories" - answers to those behavioral interview questions, such as "Tell me about a time when you went the extra mile at your job".  Prepare for more standard questions like "Why should I hire you over all the other candidates I’ve seen so far?"  In the interview, you'll have to plan ahead and make every move your best move.




Whether you’re auditioning for a dance show or interviewing for a more traditional job, you must come dressed to impress. If you don’t, you’re not starting with your best move, as Lythgoe recommends.


If in doubt about how to dress, contact the company’s human resources department for guidelines on what’s appropriate. If the company doesn’t have a human resources department, and you’re not sure what to wear, dress conservatively. That is, if you’re female, wear a dress or skirt and modest blouse. If male, wear slacks and a button-down shirt. If interviewing for a professional job, wear a suit and tie.




For the dancers on the show, this means smiling, making eye contact and directing your dancing to the three live judges as well as the ultimate judge, the viewers behind that camera.  While you hopefully won't be performing for a camera during your job interview, you do want to smile and make eye contact with your interviewer. It also means firmly shaking the interviewer’s hand at both the beginning and end of the interview, and making a real effort to engage the interviewer in a conversation.


Remember this: people hire people. At the end of the day, it’s about hiring someone that the hiring manager likes and feels a rapport with. So make an effort to put the interviewer at ease.  If the employer is considering several equally qualified candidates, she’ll offer the job to the person whose personality and energy level stand out from the others.


On the other side of the coin, it means not arguing or getting emotional with the judge (or interviewer), should the interview seem to take a bad turn.  On the show, the dancers who act contentious or "above it all" are soon sent packing by the judges in their end-of-show vote to decide who leaves the competition each week.  Like the show, one emotional outburst or an unintentional display of attitude can eliminate you from further consideration for a job for which you might be otherwise perfectly qualified.




Lythgoe emphasized the importance of always following directions. When a dancer fails to do so, it often results in getting cut from the auditions. Same goes for your interview.  All hiring managers are different and they have varied expectations. In a job interview, failure to follow directions can mean rejection from consideration for the job opportunity.



The TV dance show, “So You Think You Can Dance” is a great metaphor for the job interview process. If you're a job hunter, follow Nigel Lythgoe’s “Guide to a Good Audition” and apply it to your interview.  Simple and straightforward, it can help you succeed as a job applicant to win your “ticket to Vegas”.


As a recruiter, Joe Turner spent 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers.  The author of Job Search Secrets Unlocked and Paycheck 911, Joe also hosts his weekly Job Search Guy Radio Show on as well as other locations. You'll find free tips and advice on landing a job in this tough economy at:


Filed Under: Interviewing