Three steps to a better first impression

Posted in Careers, Mentor Minute

Three steps to a better first impression

The Globe and Mail, Oct. 14 2011

The question

Generally, I think of myself as a good employee – willing to work hard, work with others, and always willing to go the distance – which has always gotten me good performance reviews. However, I find it so difficult landing a new job since I generally feel that I do not make the best first impression (I got my current job through a job placement agency). I feel that the company needs to get to know me before I can be judged accurately on my work and abilities. Given existing hiring practices, I don’t really know how to improve my skills in making a good first impression and showing employers that I would be an asset to their company right from the start.

The answer

Making a great first impression is about three key things: self-confidence, knowing what you want to communicate, and doing your homework.

Walking into an interview with a good amount of self-confidence is critical. Confidence is communicated in so many different ways: both by how you appear and what you say. Start by walking in looking great, and ensure that what you are wearing meets the criteria of your workplace and leaves you completely comfortable so you don’t have to give your appearance any thought during the interview. Be sure to engage the interviewer by being energetic and positive, smile and greet the person openly and warmly with your head up and making eye contact. You really want them to want to spend time with you.

Second, confidence also comes when you know what you want to say. You need to have a clear message about your experience and what you have to offer. Review the kinds of questions an interviewer is going to ask you. We can’t anticipate every question that we will be asked, but so many are typical that you want to be ready: What is your biggest strength? What is the quality you need to change or eliminate to be better? What were your key contributions in your last role? Successes? Failures? Why are you looking for a new job? What would your boss say about you if I phoned them? Your peers? Your subordinates? What assets will you bring to this team? What do you know about the job you are interviewing for?

Also, if the interviewer does not ask about a specific area of your experience that you think really showcases your work and that you will be an asset from the start, be sure to volunteer this information. Don’t leave the meeting if key information has not been communicated.

You also need to do your homework on the company you are interviewing with. We had dinner recently with friends, and one of our guests was commenting on how amazed he is that no matter what level someone is interviewing for, people will still walk into an interview and not know anything about the company. Do your homework!

In this day and age when it is so easy to do an on-line search about a company, and to e-mail friends and find someone who actually works there or has an inside perspective, there is no excuse to go into the meeting without some basic knowledge about the company, its key competitors, recent product launches, recent press, etc. This is a critical step that is often over-looked by job candidates.

By covering the above three areas, your ability to make a great first impression will skyrocket.

Katie Bennett is head of Double Black Diamond Coaching.