Tag Archives: First Impressions

7 posts that can help you interview better

Interviewing for a job is not easy, especially if you take them too lightly. But if you put all the pieces in place, you’ll be successful. In this compilation there are seven posts that provide advice to follow before interviewing for positions.

Group Interview 2

Part 1: be mentally prepared

Sometimes the most difficult part of the interview process is being mentally prepared. Often easier said than done, this post offers some suggestions on how to achieve this.

Part 2: know thyself 

It’s  important that you know yourself before you prepare for interviews. This posts suggest ways to do this. One key to knowing yourself is doing a SWOT analysis. This exercise is well worth doing.

Part 3: research, research, research

Many people fail to research a position, the company, and other important components. This post talks about what to research and how to go about doing it.

Part 4: practice, practice, practice

Would you play a sport, participate in an orchestra, or take a test without practicing? It only makes sense to practice answering questions before the big show.

Part 5: making a good first impression

Oh yes the first impression you make matters. Some interviewers will base their hiring decision on your first impression. Eye contact and a firm handshake are only part of the first impression you make in the interview.

Part 6: answer the difficult questions

Which questions will be asked and how do you successfully answer them. This post talks about the proper way to answer the types of questions you’ll be asked.

Part 7: following up

After all the hard work you’ve done, now you have to seal the deal. Come across as professional and grateful for the opportunity to be interviewed for positions. But there’s more to it.

 

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10 first impressions for job-search success

 

When I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones, I was not impressed. I’d heard it was a great show, but the gratuitous violence did more to turn me off than draw me into the most important episode of the series. I haven’t returned to the show since.

First Impressions

I know you’re thinking this is a post about first impressions job seekers make at interviews, but it’s not. It’s about how important it is to make great first impressions in every aspect of your job search, not just how you shake the interviewer/s hands, maintain eye contact, etc.

Making a positive first impression can come into play before the interview phase, perhaps when you least expect it. I’m imaging a scenario where you’re at your local Starbucks, scoping out a comfortable chair to sit in for a couple of hours, and see the only one available among eight.

As you approach coveted chair, a woman dressed in a tee-shirt, yoga pants, and Asics also has her eyes on the prize. You have two choices; you can beat her to it, or you can offer her the chair, knowing there are plenty of stools at the table along the window, albeit uncomfortable ones. You take the high road and offer her the chair and retreat to one of the stools.

A week later you’re at an interview for a job that’s perfect for you. As you’re making the rounds shaking hands with the interviewers, you notice the woman to whom you offered the chair when you were at Starbucks; and she notices you as the kind woman who gave up that chair.

She’s the VP of marketing and a key decision maker in the hiring process. A couple of traits she desires in the next hire is integrity and selflessness. The interview is off to a great start because you made a great first impression by relinquishing that chair. Little did you know that that act of kindness would pay off in a big way, an act of kindness that had nothing to do with the interview process.

You may be thinking to yourself, “But that’s my nature.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “I can’t let my job search dictate how I act every minute of the day.” The point is when you’re in the job search, you’re constantly on. Let’s look at other ways you make a first impression before the interview begins.

  1. The way you dress. When you leave the house during the warm seasons, are you wearing your Red Sox Tee-shirt, baggie shorts, and sneakers without socks? You might want to ditch the Tee-shirt…and everything else. Work casual dress shows you’re serious about your job search. Trust me on this: I know which one of my customers’ job-search stint will be short based on how they dress.
  2. Body language. I tell jobseekers that people–not just employers–can read your body language like a neon sign and will make judgments. People can tell if you’re tense and therefore unapproachable. Alternatively, people sense you’re open  if you have an open stance and pleasant smile.
  3. Possitive attitude. I see plenty of people who are understandably angry, and they’re not afraid to show it. There are other people who are angry because of their unemployment but don’t display their attitude. Think whether you’re more likely to help others who show a negative attitude or those who come across as friendly. I would never insist that you must feel positive; I’m just saying fake it till you make it.
  4. Effective communications. At a networking event or during a phone conversation, are you demonstrating proper communication skills? Are you listening or just doing all the talking? If you’re doing the latter, it could be a turnoff for those with whom you’re speaking…a possible employer or valuable networking contact. I’m highly sensitive to people who do most of the talking.
  5. Activity. One of the best ways to present a great first impression is by being active in your job search. I’m not talking about being overbearing or obnoxious–I’m talking about due diligence, including sending appropriate e-mails, making telephone calls, attending networking events, calling on recruiters, engaging in daily networking, and whatever you’re capable of doing in a professional manner.
  6. Personal business cards. Nothing says professional and serious about the job search than personal business cards. They’re perfect to bring to networking events, job fairs, informational meetings, or just when you’re out and about. My close LinkedIn connection and branding master explains how business cards brand you.
  7. Your online presence. While it’s a well-known fact that employers are using social media to hire talent–approximately 96% use LinkedIn–it’s also known that they are using social media to “dig up dirt.” So make sure your online presence is clean, that there are no photos of you sloppy drunk in Cancun, that you haven’t used Twitter to blast your previous boss. (If you type “Bob McIntosh” on Twitter, you’ll find my tweets, and I guarantee they are professional in nature.)
  8. Chillax. In the job search you’re so focused on getting your next job that you may come across as too focused and determined. Give yourself a break every once in a while. People can sense those who are desperate. Read my post on displaying emotional intelligence in the job search.
  9. Follow up. This can’t be stressed enough. When you say you’ll call or email someone or meet that person for coffee, make sure you follow through with your commitment. And be sure you’re on time by the minute. Being late leaves a negative first impression.
  10. Pay it forward. In the above scenario you demonstrate selflessness by offering the other person the chair. It so happened the recipient of the chair was someone on the interview team. Your act of paying it forward worked out nicely, as she appreciated your act of kindness.

The story of you meeting the VP of marketing at Starbucks and offering her the coveted seat ends well; she casts a heavy vote to hire you for the job of your dreams. You still don’t know what you did to earn her vote, but does it really matter as long as you consider being the say you are. The power of first impressions.

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The curse of tattoos at interviews

Two years ago I wrote this post in jest. However, I was told recently by a good source that a candidate was rejected for a job at her company, because the candidate was sporting a tattoo at the interview. Perhaps there is more to this story than people think.

Tattoo

An article by Jeff Haden got me thinking. about my daughter’s latest request; a tattoo. Jeff’s article is about a man with a tattoo so intricate and enormous that Jeff could only stare at it, making the man uncomfortable.

Although my daughter’s only 16 and she doesn’t want to cover her whole arm with a tattoo, her request makes me think about the ramifications a tat will have on her career future. Will it be detrimental to her job search? I’m sure it will. She’s waiting for my reply.

Where will she put the tattoo, I ask her. I dunno, she tells me. Great. I don’t normally have to deny her requests, but I feel conflicted. I try to picture a tattoo on her.

Will it be private or public? Will it be tasteful or obnoxious? And how many is she planning to get? If it’s private, tasteful, and only one; I guess I could accept her getting a tat. However, if they’re numerous and on her neck, wrist, and anywhere they’d be seen during an interview or at work; I will definitely have an issue with that.

One of my customers who formally worked at an upscale salon has tattoos that cover her hands, forearms, and neck. They’re magnificent tattoos like the one Jeff mentions in his article, but the assortment of them makes me wonder how employers would view them, if she were to apply for, say, an office position.

This customer’s tats are so visible and magnificent that they distracted me during my workshops. Particularly during my Interview Techniques workshop when I want to have her stand up so I can tell the group that tattoos like these might not be the right image you want to present at an interview.

And then I want to add in a Sam Kenison rant, “They’re forever. Ah, Ah, Ahhhhh.” But I neither make her stand or express my disapproval of her tats. It’s her life, even if they are forever. I can only wonder why she decorated her body like a Harlem wall covered with graffiti. Maybe if she had a parent who urged her not to get the tattoos, she wouldn’t have marred her body with them.

Among the many aspects of our first impressions, tattoos are one of them. Employers are more forgiven than they were in the past. We know this because many of the people who serve us at restaurants and coffee houses, work with us in offices and outdoors, are displaying them freely and with impunity.

But it makes me wonder if the tattoo-baring employees displayed them so freely when they were interviewed, or did they hide them with long sleeves, turtle neck shirts, and pants that covered their ankles…in the dead of summer? If these folks with tats had the foresight to hide them, they may have dodged a bullet.

What if, for example, a college grad is applying for an accountant position, in the last stages of the interview process, and talking with the VP of say PricewaterhouseCoopers. She’s feeling so confident because she’s been told this interview is a formality, a sign off. It’s in the bag. So she lets her guard down and wears a sleeveless dress, revealing a small, tasteful butterfly tattoo on her shoulder.

Harmless, right?

This is my fear; my daughter will be that young woman at the interview of her life, only to blow it because of a simple tattoo. Only because some conservative guy might be the decision maker and think that this woman is too compulsive; not right for the company image.

All because of a tattoo my daughter got while her friends were encouraging her to “go for it” in New Hampshire at some seedy tattoo parlor. The image of her walking out of the parlor sporting a tat on her wrist, looking at her friends for approval, showing some doubt on her face; is enough for me to make a decision.

I tell her no to the tats, and she shrugs her shoulders and says fine. I get the feeling she never wanted one and all my worrying was for naught, until she asks for is a nose stud.

 

 

Your handshake matters more than you might think: 10 different ways to shake one’s hand

I wrote this article a year ago, but it’s worth reiterating how important a handshake is in your job search, business, and life.

I’m a firm believer that you can tell a lot about person’s character by his handshake. In a recent interview workshop, I told my attendees about my obsession with a good handshake and, as a result, a half  hour conversation ensued.

At the moment I’m talking about the the importance of making a great  first impression. I tell them, “Someone’s handshake tells me many things about a person. If it is firm, the person is trustworthy, open to engagement, warm spirited, confident, and basically someone who I’d allow my daughter to date.” They all laugh.

I get sidetracked and tell them about how my daughter dated a boy who shook my hand for the first time with a limp handshake. I told her soon afterward that her boyfriend better learn how to shake hands if he wants to get anywhere in life. She told me I was being ridiculous.

“If it’s limp,” an attendee speaks out, “the person is suspicious, anti-social; someone I wouldn’t want my granddaughter to date.” Laughter erupts. He has stolen my thunder.

An article on CareerBuilder.com states that a proper handshake makes employers overlook some deficiencies in jobseekers: “Prospective employers said they’re more likely to overlook visible body piercings and tattoos than an ineffective handshake, according to a 2001 survey of human resources professionals.” Though this article is dated, I think a good handshake is still a vital component of the first impression.

About.com, under an article about social disorders, talks about 10 “Bad Handshakes.” They are:

  1. “I am dominant”
  2. “Bone Crusher”
  3. “Limp Fish”
  4. “Just Fingers”
  5. “Cold, Clammy, or Sweaty”
  6. “The Double-Hander”
  7. “The Long Handshake”
  8. “Without Eye Contact”
  9. “The Miss”
  10. “Too Close”

I can relate most to the “Bone Crusher” because I’m an occasional bone crusher. I once shook a woman’s hand with such force that I thought I heard her bones being crushed, or at least shifting. She winced in pain. The handshakes that drive me mad and make me want to take a hot shower are the “Limp Fish” and “Cold, Clammy, or Sweaty.”

I reached out to my LinkedIn family and posted a question about the significance of handshakes, and there were some pretty good responses. One person, wrote, “The handshake is part of the first impression. Not so firm as to cut off my blood circulation and not limp like holding a slice of calf’s liver. And God help us, not sweaty either. So make sure your hands are dry before you extend a handshake.” I love the image of a “slice of calf’s liver.”

On the other hand, a respondent to my question wrote: “I’m interested in the information the person [has] to communicate to me, not peripheral customs like a handshake.” I appreciate his opinion; not everyone places so much stock in a handshake as I do. But I don’t buy it. The “Limp Fish” would send anyone over the edge, regardless of the information.

Wiki.answers.com writes extensively on the subject of the handshake, including the proper position. “Your body should be approximately two cubits (distance from fingertips to elbow) away from the other party. Your shaking arm should be bent so that the elbow forms a 135-degree angle, and the forearm is level with the floor. Your hand should neither be on top, nor underneath the other person’s hand. Both parties’ hands should be straight up-and-down, even with each other. The web of your hand (skin running between the forefinger and the thumb) should meet the web of theirs.”

Okay, some pundits go a bit far with their explanation of a proper handshake. I definitely feel that a person should maintain eye contact while shaking an employer’s or business person’s hand, but keeping her elbow at a 135 degree angle is a bit extreme.

My customers attend my interview workshop to learn the tricks of mastering the interview, but it’s important for them to master the first impression before the interviewer starts asking the difficult question. When I meet someone for the first time, I size them up immediately based on their handshake; but that might just be me.

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.