Tag Archives: first impression

Nailing the interview process; part 5. First impressions matter

I’m sure you were told, as a child, to look the person with whom you were talking in the eyes. You were also instructed to deliver a firm, yet gentle, handshake; not a limp one. I bet you were told to smile, as well. Your guardians wanted you to come across as likable, because being likable would get you far in this world.


Guess what; all of the lessons you were taught as a child apply today. Now that you’re an adult, you still need to maintain consistent eye contact, deliver a great handshake, smile, and more. And if you’re interviewing, your first impressions count more than ever.

It’s believed that 33% of employers will make a decision to not hire you within 90 seconds based on the first impressions you make.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But this is how important first impressions count, so don’t take them lightly. Let’s look at some interviewers’ pet peeves to make sure you don’t commit them in the interview.

1. Poor Eye Contact. Mentioned earlier, making the appropriate amount of eye contact is important. Which means that you don’t have to stare at the person for many minutes; that’s just creepy. You can look away occasionally, as this shows you’re reflecting.

Good eye contact shows engagement and implies trust. Poor eye contact may imply that you’re avoiding a question, you’re disinterested, or you’re lying. People who are shy need to make a concerted effort to make eye contact with the interviewers.

2. Not Knowing Enough About the Company. This is considered a first impression, because it shows you didn’t prepare for the interview. If you are asked what you know about the company, and you answer, “I was hoping to learn about the company in the interview,” you’ve failed at this very first important first impression.

Employers want to know that you have done your research on their company, as well as the position and even the competition. Will you come across as prepared, or do you appear to not care? It should be the latter.

3. A Lousy Handshake. To me the handshake is one of the most important first impressions you can make. It says something about your character. Your handshake should be firm, yet gentle. Don’t crush the hand of the person you’re greeting.

On the flip side, do not deliver a limp handshake, as this indicates indifference. The sweaty palm handshake is an immediate turnoff. Also annoying is the early grab, where you grab the interviewer’s fingers. The crooks of your hands should nicely fit together.

4. Fidgeting, Crossing Your Arms, Playing with Facial Hair. All of these are signs of body language that imply nervousness. You may not know you’re committing any of these faux pas, but interviewers can see you do them and be distracted.

Fidgeting and playing with your facial hair can easily be corrected by holding a pen or interlocking you fingers and placing them on the table. Crossing your arms can imply defensiveness or aloofness. You may simply feel comfortable talking with your arms crossed, but interviewers may see it as a negative stance.

5. Monotone Voice. The worst thing you want to do is talk in a monotone voice, as it implies indifference or boredom or even pretentiousness. You sound robotic when there’s no inflection or pitch in your voice. You lack enthusiasm.

This is particularly important during a telephone interview when the interviewer can’t see the enthusiasm on your face. So, you need to “show” your excitement through your voice. Occasionally you’ll  want to raise your voice or even lower it to make important points.

6. Not Smiling. This is what job candidates often forget to do during an interview, even people who have killer smiles. We are so intent on delivering the best answers that sometimes we forget to smile. Try to remember to smile, at least occasionally.

Smiling shows interviewers that you are friendly, welcoming, and happy to be in their presence. This is important, because interviewers want to know that you are enthusiastic about working for their company.

7. Poorly dressed. There is much debate as to how job candidates should dress for an interview. The general rule is one or two notches above the company’s dress code. What is the company’s dress code, you may wonder? Following are some suggestions for various occupations.

Sales/Finance/Banking. You’ll want to look formal and contemporary, which may include a grey or black suit for men with a color tie. Woman may want to wear a silk blouse beneath a suite jacket, as well as a skirt.

For education, IT, and public sectors; no suit, but a pressed shirt and nice slacks for men. For women, a skirt or trousers and a silk blouse.

Engineers, construction workers, warehouse workers may go with a simple shirt, maybe a tie for men. Women may wear a button-down shirt and slacks.

In all cases, refrain from heavy perfume and cologne. Women should not wear a lot of bling (jewelry). What’s most important is showing respect for the interviewer. There are no situations when you should wear jeans,  unless you’re specifically told to.

The first impressions you make can be your last ones, so make sure your start of on the right track. Enter the room and shake each persons’ hand, make eye contact, and smile. Show the interviewers that you’re happy to be there.

Next week we’ll look at how to answer the difficult questions.

Photo: Flickr, Flazingo Photos

First impressions count, they really do

Despite what people may have told you, first impressions count. They count a lot. For example, my beautiful and charming daughter left her Facebook page open this morning. So naturally I spent a little time looking at the posts. An hour later I’m thinking Holy Cow, this stuff is heinous, bordering on obscene, and my daughter’s friends’ parents/legal guardians would be appalled if they saw it.

My point is that this filth I saw this morning will probably be on the Internet for a long time to come. And when my daughter’s friends decide to apply for their first paying job, employers best not see what they wrote, even five years ago. First impression count.

I joined OpenNetorkers.com to increase my connection numbers. I regret doing this because I get about 15 invites a day. Some of you might think it’s great to collect connections like they’re toy cars, but I like updates from people with whom I actually have something in common. That’s just me. What has made invites from this group reasonably enjoyable is the ability to Ignore 9 out of 10 invites with impunity. When I see a potential connection with no photo, I hit Ignore. First impressions count.

Speaking of photos. When did LinkedIn become a dating service? I’ve seen far too many photos of people who are posting shots from their GQ, In Style, and Glamour days. The rule of thumb is to dress the way you would for your next job. Do you want your photo to imply that your college co-ed days or six-pack abs are a reflection of your professional image? LinkedIn is a professional networking site, not a medium to find your next husband or wife. First impressions count.

In my workshops I see people dressed in various ways, especially during the summer. There are the work-casual types (high five to them), the brand name fanatics (Nike and sports teams are popular), and lastly the I-just-rolled-out-of-bed types. Here’s the thing: if I hear of a job opening, who do you think I’ll think of first? That’s right, the work-casual types. First impressions count.

It’s been told that an employer might make her decision not to hire you within the first 30 seconds of seeing you, based on your first impression. Do you introduce yourself with a smile? Do you shake her hand firmly but without breaking it? Are you dressed appropriately for the interview (shoes matter, too)? Do you wait to be seated? Is your small talk appropriate (you don’t talk about how oppressive the heat is and the bumper-to-bumper traffic and how finding daycare is impossible)? Make sure all of this applies. First impressions count.

Telephone etiquette is often underestimated in importance. I once called a customer to confirm a workshop for which she had signed up. She answered the phone with, “Good afternoon. This is Cherrie McDonald (don’t remember her name). How may I help you?” I was like, Wow, she won’t be out of work very long. A colleague of mine related a time when a customer answered the phone sounding like a chain-smoking truck driver and acted like she was annoyed to be called. Not until the colleague of mine said there was a possible job for her, did she brighten up…a little. First impressions count.

Just remember that people are judging you on your first impression. My daughter’s Facebook page opened my eyes to what her “friends” are writing and made me think that even a social networking site can leave a lasting impression on people. Later I spoke with her, and she responded with, “They’re only my Facebook friends; I wouldn’t write that stuff.” Guilty be association, I told her. Guilty by association. First impressions count.