Job Hunting: How to Make a Good First Impression

by on 31st of August, 2009 in Career Development & Networking

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.”

OR

“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?

6 thoughts on “Job Hunting: How to Make a Good First Impression”

  1. Kris says:

    Actually, you should absolutely park in Visitor Parking. You ARE a visitor to the company, and in many places parking spaces are regulated, so you could be parking in somebody’s assigned space, and could get towed!

  2. Suzanne says:

    “If you can help it..” is the operative part of that recommendation. If a company has assigned parking, it is usually pretty clear (such as “reserved” signs).
    Anyway, I think the point is, if you want to do a last minute hair check or refresh your lipstick, do it before parking in front of the building (if you can help it).

  3. larryheard says:

    Be sure to keep your resume crumple free, keep it inside a folder and do bring extra copies just in case.

  4. Sunil says:

    Handshake with a charming smile … will help

  5. Maryam Hashim says:

    Hi Travis!

    Thanks for the write-up on how to leave a good first impression. May I ask how to I deal with prejudice? I live in multi-racial country and I’m a minority. Any amount of your kind advice is much appreciated.

  6. Travis says:

    Hi Maryam,

    You bring up a very intriguing topic. While I am not sure I have direct advice on racism, per se, I think I would default to the advice I would give anyone who felt like they were entering an interview at a disadvantage. This could include being underqualified, overqualified, knowing a more talented person has interviewed, and so on. If you know you are fighting an uphill battle during an interview, plan and prepare to overcome that particular obstacle. Plan to show them that their ill-conceived perceptions are not accurate. Prepare examples of accomplishments or specific experiences that would demonstrate that you are qualified for the job. If it’s personality or fitting in, be sure those examples include times/places when you have been a part of a team like the one that exists at the company for which you are applying. Downplay the issues by casually dismissing them as “not an issue” for you. Talk up successes you have had fitting in or working with groups of people, and weave these examples into the conversation as if to imply “this is not a big deal and I can prove it”. While this may not resolve preconceived ideas from the company’s vantage point, it will make you a lot more confident in yourself and your abilities, and that confidence is something you want to be apparent during the interview.

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