I read an article a few weeks back that told me it takes 17 times of seeing someone again to diminish the first impression. If this is true than a lot of people need to really refine their day to day appearance; me included. 

It is crazy how powerful a first impression is. Even if you are not face to face with a person.

Sometimes, I can tell how strong a candidate will be just by the voicemail they have set up on their phone. If it is professional and well spoken, I take that as a solid first impression. My co-workers and I often laugh about the fact that a lot of people forget to change their email address names, or "ring back tones" on their cell phones. It really is not the best first impression, especially on the top of a resume, when the person's email reads "playa4ever71@gmail.com". If you are job searching, and put your resume on sites such as Monster or CareerBuilder, it is well advised to change your email address to something more subtle. 

I personally also remember a good handshake. It is almost a let down when I go to meet a very qualified candidate for the first time, they are dressed professional, yet barely shake my hand. As a job seeker, I believe it is important to make a name for yourself right from the start. Separate yourself from others first thing! A handshake could definitely set you apart, but if it's a poor handshake, it will set you apart in a negative way. 

Lastly, I think smiling can be a huge factor in a first impression. When I go to meet someone for the first time, I always give a warm smile and make them feel comfortable. It is also easy to see how they will react back, and then tell if they will be a good fit for our client. It is good to act serious in a job interview, but no smiles usually means too much business and no relationship can be built. There is a lot more that could be said about first impressions, but I will stop here for now. Moral of this story: control the things you can control while job searching. Practice your handshake, and update your voicemail! 

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Comment by Christopher Perez on January 24, 2012 at 1:37pm

Great reminders Katie. These are simple things that often get overlooked as candidates (and recruiters) get hyperfocused on anticipating that killer question and response during the actual interview.

I work with clients on senior-level positions and it's maddening how even the most polished candidates can boot it on the most basic common courtesies. How many of us hear from clients when a candidate sends a great post-interview email? (hint: none of us). But don't we always get some well-deserved snark when the candidate fails to take 30 seconds to send a thank you note? I make this a standard part of my candidate prep: "Send a TY note!" I know that even if I say it tactfully I am offending a certain percentage of people, but I'll take that chance and cover my bases. Thanks again.   --Chris

Comment by Kyle Schafroth on January 31, 2012 at 3:43pm

I second Chris' thoughts; the overwhelming number of people (on each side of the table) that skip the little things is frankly sort of disheartening. A good handshake and smile tell me you're: comfortable yet professional, confident (note: not cocky) and assertive enough for me to put you in front of clients, various levels of managers/internal team members, etc.

A soon to be college grad and I were supposed to meet for an informal chat about future career opps and they ran into car trouble. The call to me was, and I quote, "I'm going to see if I can get a ride from a friend to our meeting, this is NOT the first impression I wanted to leave". It meant a LOT that this person recognized the potential negative impact something even unexpected such as this could have to their image in my mind.

At the same time I also think it's important to note Chris' thoughts that it's not just candidates - recruiters, HR folks, whomever also lose sight of the little things. It's not just your candidates you need to keep a good rapport with but everyone that's part of the process. Are you a company HR rep? Maintain a good standing with agency recruiters or forget ever seeing a great candidate from them again! Are you an agency recruiter? Build that relationship with the company's internal team or don't expect many of your candidates to walk on-site.

To this day I firmly believe that the first impressions I created for professionals in my local SHRM chapter are the reason my career started as strongly as it did. It led to interviews, internships, and eventually...jobs.


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