The thought of putting ourselves on public display for others to judge is enough to make most of us shudder. Think about what people undergo in speed dating forums where they must endure the scrutiny of strangers making snap decisions on their “date-ability.” A job interview feels a lot like a speed dating scenario, with interviewers trying to hastily weed out their finalist from a group of candidates. In less time than it takes to eat lunch, an employer will decide how he or she would feel about seeing you five days a week, forty-nine weeks a year, for the foreseeable future. And you, the interviewee, are the hopeful table-hopper trying to make a winning first impression.

Let’s face it: Both practices have intrinsic flaws when it comes to finding a well-suited employee or a truly compatible mate. It really is not possible for anyone to get to know a perfect stranger over the course of a short, often canned, conversation. But, disturbingly, research shows that employers tend to make up their minds about a job candidate within the first few minutes of the interview. That doesn’t give you a whole lot of time to impress your prospect with your intelligence, conversational aptitude, or interesting ideas.

With speed dating, the primary criteria for both men and women–no surprises here–is a person’s appearance. Hardboiled decisions are made at the time of the initial handshake. Knowing that others make conclusive judgments about you using such superficial appraisals makes it difficult to sell your hidden attributes.

In these types of pressure cooker situations, follow these five tips to make a winning first impression:

  1. Be aware of the message your dressing style sends. If your clothing choices tend to generate stares, it will also generate thoughts like, “What’s up with her that she needs to express herself in that way?” Conversely, dressing in uniform–you know, the classic dark suit paired with a light-colored shirt–can peg you as too conformist. On the day of the big interview, try to balance style and originality in your attire with what’s generally considered acceptable.
  1. Try to find a common bond. When you can make a connection around a common interest, you make a notable impression. Look for clues to the other person’s preferences in activities or intellectual pursuits: Does the employer have a book on the shelf that you’ve read? Share what you learned from it. Does one of the prospective dates have a tell-tale goggles tan? Ask if he’s been skiing and see if you both like to ski at the same places.
  1. Don’t commandeer the interview. It’s always wise to arrive for any interview with well-rehearsed talking points and some prepared questions to ask. But refrain from pummeling your interviewer with questions, and curb any tendency to launch into a long anecdote. Listen attentively and try to allow a balanced give-and-take in the banter.
  1. Show you have a sense of humor. While you don’t want to be slapstick or tacky just to prove that you’ve got a sense of humor, letting your interviewer see that you have a witty side or you don’t take yourself too seriously can be an asset.
  1. If at first you don’t succeed… Recognize that both speed dating and job interviewing involve an imperfect process that has more to do with pre-conceived expectations than objective assessments. Don’t give up if you’re not chosen. With each attempt, you’ll become better at letting your prospect see who you really are–not some overstudied, nervous Nellie version of yourself, but the real you; the one your friends love. Finding the right fit can take time. But in the meantime, you’ll learn more about the process and how to distinguish your own particular preferences.