What Type of First Impression are You Making?

Many people say that you can tell a lot about someone in just the first few minutes of meeting them. I agree. Body language, tone of voice, attire, level of self-confidence, ability to convey a sense of believability and trust are just some of the snapshots we give or receive that go a long way to creating that critical first impression.

Job seekers often do not realize that basically everything they do, say, write or wear is considered when a hiring manager looks holistically at candidates for an open position. Below are some real life examples of impressions made:

A soon-to-graduate senior at a large university is asked to go to the headquarters of a large, international company on a Thursday for a round of additional interviews that would take place the next day on Friday. He travels across the country and is picked up at the airport by a representative of the company. That evening he, along with about 50 other candidates, is asked to attend a “mixer” at the hotel in which the company has put up all of these students from colleges around the U.S. Several of the company’s managers are at the “mixer” event…at which alcohol is available. A number of those in attendance think this is terrific and treat it like a frat party. Guess which students did not go much farther in the interview process?

Prior to this individual leaving on the trip, I asked him when he thought the interview process would begin. His response, “Like I told you, Mike, my first interview is on Friday @ 8:30 am”.


His interview started when he was picked up at the airport…and ended when he was dropped off on Friday afternoon by the company’s representative.

This individual did not have any alcohol at the “mixer” that Thursday evening and made it a point to introduce himself to each of the company’s representatives who attended the event. By the way, he’s been with the company now just over three years, had three (above average) pay raises and a promotion.

A job seeker with whom I did some resume coaching had a bullet point in their resume that read, “I sold $50,000 worth of product X each month”. When I asked her to provide me with some perspective of that accomplishment by ranking that level of production against the other 5 sales people in her former company, I was told, “I was fourth”. A bit surprised I remarked, “Fourth out of six sales people…that means your sales volume was below average!” Her reaction to my comment was simply, “Wow, I hadn’t thought about that.”

If you were a sales manager, a good chunk of whose overall compensation might come as a result of the level of sales revenue generated by your sales team…would you give any serious consideration to this candidate..?

A job seeker includes in his resume’s “Career Summary” that he is a “results-oriented team leader”. Yet, there is no mention anywhere else within the content of the two-page document of ANY results for any accomplishment or anything about leading a team. No quantification of his “claims” to be results-oriented or having expertise as a team leader. This is not a good strategy for making a hiring manager believe that you are his/her “ideal” candidate.

An English teacher sends me their resume to review. I find that it is filled with multiple spelling and grammatical errors. I advise the former educator that it would be difficult for me, as a school system Superintendent, to take the resume seriously. When I review the revised resume a couple of weeks later, there were only about half as many spelling and grammatical errors. I told this gentleman that if my children attended the school in which he taught English…I would make certain that they did not have him as their teacher.

In response to a position I posted for an Administrative Assistant, I received a few hundred responses…one of which came with a cover letter that was addressed as follows:

Mike Perry
Szarka Financial Management
29691 Lorain Road
North Olmsted, OH 44070

Dear Lois,

Dear LOIS…!!! Apparently this candidate did not understand that when I saw the cover letter I had a disturbing vision about letters typed by her, going out with similar errors to my company’s best prospects and clients.

No thanks..! I never bothered to read her resume.

Why do people attend job seekers’ group meetings dressed like they just came from a cookout? This is a business meeting. The presenters are most often employed executives and/or hiring managers. Do these folks ever look around the room and wonder, “If that speaker (potential hiring manager or someone with connections to other hiring managers) looks at all of the attendees, observes that some/most come dressed in professional attire and then sees me in jeans or shorts and a t-shirt…what type of first impression will they have?”

I have a lot more of these “horror” stories, but you get the point.

Be your own toughest critic. Put yourself in the shoes of the potential hiring manager or HR recruiter who will be formulating quick impressions from a review of your resume, a phone screen, a search of the Internet (Google search for your name, Facebook, LinkedIn…etc).

Would you be impressed with you?

Here are a couple of tips to help ensure that you are positioned to make a great first impression with a hiring manager:

  • Check, double-check and then have a couple of other people (who you trust to be excellent proof readers) check and edit your resume and cover letter.
  • Do a thorough review of your “digital life”. Ensure that the “story” being told about you on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is consistent with the story being told by your resume, during networking conversations and interview discussions.
  • Have you proven everything that you claim you can do in your resume? Ensure that all descriptions listed for each of your former positions held coincide with the skills and experience being sought for the job you are seeking, and that each of your “Key Achievement”/accomplishment bullet points contains specific examples of how you applied those skills to produce exceptional results (results that are quantified with metrics).
  • Understand that everything that you do, say and write is considered part of the interview and selection process. Are you taking advantage of everything that you say, do and write as multiple opportunities to “wow” the hiring manager and anyone else involved with the candidate selection process?
  • Be willing to do something that other candidates cannot or are unwilling to do (like showing up two days early at the employer’s facility and introducing yourself to the Receptionist – the “gatekeeper”). I’ve mentioned this tip in at least one of my previous posts and I suggest it whenever I speak to groups of job seekers. Do you know how many candidates actually bother to do something like this…practically none. Impressing the gatekeeper can do a lot to begin setting you apart from the other candidates.

Be aware, be consistent, be impressive.