You will never get a second chance to make a first impression. (Will Rogers)
First impressions are the longest lasting. (Proverb)
These sayings are very true, particularly when it comes to job search. In such a competitive environment, the impact you make when people first meet you or come into contact with your job search collateral, is critical. Let’s have a look at some areas where you can make a strong first impression in job search and give yourself every chance of progressing through the selection cycle:
LinkedIn is the most obvious online social media. If you are not on it, the inference may be that you are not ‘up with the technology’ and therefore not a good first impression, especially if someone is wanting to find you or discern more information about you ahead of a meeting or interview. If you do have a profile, what does it look like? Does it convey relevant details, your strengths, expertise and other facts about you that would intrigue the reader? Or is it incomplete, out of date and stagnant? A complete and detailed LinkedIn profile with a good picture (head and shoulders, professionally attired, looking at the camera, sharp with no distracting backgrounds), a strong headline, a brief outline of your experience, recommendations from others, following companies and participating in groups will all create a good first impression of you professionally.
In addition to LinkedIn, it’s always wise to do a Google search of yourself to see what comes up. If there’s anything untoward or negative that you would not want a prospective employer to see, delete it if possible and review your privacy settings on social media like Facebook and others.
Many resumes are too long and devoid of achievements. A good resume has your name, mobile number, email and LinkedIn URL at the top followed by a brief summary which outlines 4 key areas:
- Your profession (e.g. ‘An experienced mechanical engineer…’),
- Where you have worked (‘Worked in diverse industries including power and engineering for companies such as BHP and Rio Tinto…’)
- Your expertise or skills relevant to your profession (e.g. Computer-aided design using Autocad, knowledge of steel) and
- General strengths of the soft or leadership variety (e.g. The ability to work as a member of a team; led both remote and local teams).
A good summary will draw in the reader to want to find out more by reading further into your resume where the detail of jobs held, achievements and development reside. This summary – like the entire resume – should be tailored to the role you are applying for and encourage the reader to eventually find out more about you at interview!
There are several opportunities to create a good first impression at the interview…
If you are given the opportunity to choose an interview time-slot, always take the first one (e.g. 9.00 am). Why? You’d be amazed to discover how often the first person interviewed is the most impressive. This is borne of good preparation (plus fresh and eager interviewers!) which means the first interviewee becomes the benchmark against which all other candidates are compared.
When the interviewer comes to greet you, he or she will see you dressed and groomed appropriately for the role, along with a warm smile and greeting and firm handshake (not a ‘wet fish’ handshake as my mother once described the limp, clammy variety illustrated above!).
As you accompany the interviewer to the interview room, the interviewer will no doubt ask some questions of the ‘small talk’ variety, such as ‘How was your trip in today?’, or ‘What did you do on the weekend?’ While only small talk, the interviewer is gauging how you respond both in terms of your social skills and also if there’s ‘chemistry’ and rapport. Most people like to work with people they like and feel comfortable with. Don’t be contrived, but engage appropriately during the walk to the interview room.
Once in the interview room and when any further small talk and an outline of the structure of the interview is dispensed with, the interviewer then generally asks, ‘Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself.’ This is the classic ‘opening gambit’ and being the first question is your chance to create a good impression. In this case, you should use a verbal version of the summary you’d included on your resume, which is matched up to the job you are applying for (e.g. ‘Thanks for asking. As you can see from my resume, I am an experienced mechanical engineer who has worked both in the power and engineering industries for companies such as…’). This is great for first impressions compared to most candidates who generally give a potted history of their work experience (or what I call ‘death by a thousand cuts’) and/or personal or family information (which is interesting, but off the mark). Your positive first impression has been created!
Whenever you see a job advertisement placed by a recruiter and they have provided their contact details, call them! Many people who call recruiters (and it’s only around 5-10% of applicants) ask droll questions like ‘What are you paying for the role?’ or ‘Tell me about the role.’, both of which are guaranteed to leave a less than favourable impression. Instead, call with a purpose by saying something like, ‘Hi Paul, my name is John and I’m calling about the mechanical engineer vacancy you posted on SEEK. I realise you are probably taking lots of inquiries and applications for the role, so I hope you don’t mind if I take a few minutes of your time to quickly introduce myself and to ask a few questions.’ A very different first impression as I’m sure you’ll agree! As recruiters work in real-time, if they like what they hear, they are far more likely to arrange a chat with you fairly quickly.
If you are not networking as part of your job search, you should be. Not only is it great for information gathering, but it also leads to introductions or referrals…From people who were impressed enough with you to provide them! Is there a better first impression for the person you are going to meet than a strong recommendation from someone else they know and trust? Probably not. You get the idea.
Of course all of the above approaches require thought and preparation. You want to be able to stand out for all the right reasons and knowing that first impressions are critical, ensure you focus on these areas to support job search success.
The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s.