Do first impressions matter in the job search? Not as much as performance, according to Lou Adler

First ImpressionWhen someone gives me a limp handshake or, worse yet, a sweaty palm, I cringe inside. The handshake, to me, says a great deal about a person’s character. It says, I’m a stand-up guy or gal. Really nice to meet you. The handshake should be firm but not crush one’s bones.

Eye contact means a great deal to me, as well. Steady eye contact says, “I’m paying attention. I’m interested. I’m not hiding anything, etc.” A pleasant smile helps to create a great first impression, as well.

But Lou Adler downplays the importance of first impressions in his article Performance Matters, First Impressions Don’t.  Now what would Lou Adler know about interviewing and hiring quality candidates? A boatload. He wrote the books: Hire With Your Head and The Essential Guide for Hiring, the second of which I own. What do I know? Not as much as him. I’ve interviewed people before but not the thousands he has. Here’s what he writes in his article:

“The only common trait among the best people is their track record of solid performance, not the quality of their first impression.”

Were this to be true, that’s great, because some people’s first impression simply suck. They come across as approachable as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, devoid of character; or they maintain eye contact like a shy child being interrogated…I mean questioned by adults; or they shake your hand like they’re afraid to touch you. I agree with Mr. Adler that performance is paramount, but a terrible first impression? Read Mr. Adler’s article, a wonderful tale.

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