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You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
There is a lot of truth in this old adage and it is especially true for job hunting. Previously, we discussed the importance of the impression your resume leaves on the reader but when you are selected to meet with a company in person, that first impression may decide whether or not you get the job.
More and more often, I am hearing about candidates who were "rejected" for reasons completely unassociated with their skill set. Like it or not, most hiring managers have their minds virtually made up in the first 5 minutes and it generally consists of one of two different thoughts:
"I really like this person, I hope they don't screw this up."
"This person is not it. I need to give them just enough time to get them out of my office without being rude."
Your goal, of course, is to get included in the first group and the impression of you starts from the moment you get dressed for the interview.
The 3 mile rule
I recommend the 3 mile rule – once you are within 3 miles of your interview, pretend that the interview has started. Drive safer, don't cut people off, don't smoke, don't play air drums on your steering wheel as you never know who is inthe car next to your…it could be your interviewer. Visualize that you are "on".
Arrive with confidence, and manners
Do not park in the Visitor Parking or directly in front of the building if you can help it, but rather in a "regular" spot off to the side. Assume that people are watching you through the tinted windows and you should act accordingly.
Walk confidently to the front door smiling at everyone you see and add a "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" to people that you pass. In companies, the receptionist often plays a vital role in the selection process though they rarely are responsible for screening people "in" to the company, they play a huge role in screening people "out".
Most hiring managers trust their receptionist's opinions and do not take kindly to people who do not treat them well. If you are asked to fill out an application, do it quickly (a candidate of ours was bypassed last week for taking too long to fill out the application) and efficiently and remember that people are waiting for you to finish.
A firm handshake, and all that
Stand up when your interviewer comes out and look them in the eye, smile and give them a firm handshake. Make small talk as you walk to the interview room and ask them about their day.
Do not ask your interviewers if they want a copy of your resume, just give them a nice copy printed on resume paper – it will make yours stand out from the photo copies of other candidate's resumes.
Then sit up straight, look them in the eye and nail the interview!
It's all about you
Do not fool yourself, this meeting is about being liked more than it is about skills. Your skills have already been largelt assessed by the time you re sitting in front of the hiring manager and your being "liked" will play more into a job offer than your skills.
What else would you suggest is a great way to make a first impression?