First Impressions CountBy Heather Isaacs
First impressions are often the most lasting in any situation,
be it meeting a new friend, speaking in front of an audience, going
on vacation or in the job search. Most job seekers think that the
first impression is made when you’re in an interview setting,
but it begins much earlier when you first make contact with a
prospective employer. Here are different areas where you can make a
good or bad first impression on a prospective employer:
Picking up an application
A couple of years ago I spoke with the manager of a women’s chain store about what she likes to see when women stop in to pick up applications. She gave the example of two women who came in on the same day at a time when they weren’t doing a lot of hiring.
Woman A: looked like she had just come from cleaning her garage. She asked for an application and was given one but was also told that the store wasn’t hiring at this time.
Woman B: was dressed in the type of clothing sold at this store, fitting their image. She asked for an application, was given one and also told that the store wasn’t hiring at this time, but she did get to speak to the manager for a few minutes to get information about when they would next be hiring.
Woman B: got further in the process because she came across as a serious job seeker who knew what kind of image the store wanted to sell.
Some people like to be creative on their voicemail, playing their favorite song, quoting a philosophical or spiritual passage or having their children record the message. None of these are appropriate when you are looking for work. You need to have a business-like message on both your landline and your cell phone if you have one. The best kind of message gives your name and phone number, letting the prospective employer know that they have reached the correct person. An example is “you’ve reached the Smith household at 612-555-5555. We cannot take your call right now so please leave a message.”
Facebook and MySpace sites
These sites have become popular with younger people as means of sharing experiences with friends and family. What many people do not realize is that employers are also viewing these sites looking for information about candidates. You don’t want an employer to see pictures of you partying, goofing off or engaging in any other kind of behavior that may be acceptable in private but probably shouldn’t be shared publicly if one is in a job search. You have some choices with these sites- you can make your site private while you’re looking for work or you can clean up the content and use it as a way to promote yourself.
Resume and cover letter
Spelling errors and poor grammar speak volumes about your communication skills and attention to detail. Objectives like “I want to work for a company where I can grow” are outdated and tell the reader you may not have a clear idea of your goals. Focus instead on writing a summary of your skills and accomplishments. Check out resume books for examples of summaries.
Filling out applications
Bad: Writing “see attached resume”, not having names, dates and contact information for at least the five most recent employers, asking to borrow a pen, asking why you need to do this when you have a resume
Good: Having all of your employment information- the names, dates and contact information for your five most recent employers ready in a notebook or on a typed sheet, bringing two pens in case one runs out of ink, understanding that an application is a way of seeing how well you write and follow directions
Have your calendar near the phone so that you are prepared to set an appointment when a company calls. Be sure to ask how many people you will be meeting with and for how long. Even if you know where the company is located, get directions and ask about parking options and security check-ins just so there are few surprises on the day of your interview. Ask for the phone numbers of key contact people in case an emergency comes up. Expect to pay any parking costs yourself for downtown companies. Print out extra resumes and get a portfolio in order. Make sure that every piece of your interview outfit is clean, pressed or polished to show respect for the interviewer. Do about an hour’s research on the company to ask thoughtful questions.
Bad impressions are made when: you don’t have the information you need about who you are meeting and how to find the office, show up late, are dressed inappropriately and haven’t prepared for the interview.
So to make the best first impression on each potential employer, examine each of these tips to see if what you’re doing is helping or hurting you in the job search. Remember, an employer can form an impression of you even before you come in for a formal interview.