“You Never Get a Third Chance to Make a Second Impression.” I love this quote from Seth Godin (Free Prize Inside, pg. 217) as a humorous take on how important first impressions are.
How Do The Rest Of Us Make a Great Impression?
Most candidates just make sure they are completely undistinguishable - their clothes are clean, hair is brushed, and shoes are shined. Sure these are all important - but if you want the job, wouldn’t you also want to stand out?
Few people can pull off a great first impression without effort and are great in interviews, seemingly without trying. Often, these naturals are very attractive, great at putting other people at ease immediately, instantly likable, or really funny. How many of your friends get job offers from nearly every interview they take/ Not many, right?
But what about the rest of us?
You don’t have to be America’s Top Model or a standup comedian. First impressions can be managed. Managing and carefully creating a first impression takes research, planning and practice.
Act & communicate like you already work at the company. Use their style, speak their language, and look like employees at your target company look. Since hiring managers make their decisions in the first 2 – 30 seconds of the interview, the decision is made just before or just after the initial handshake. There’s no way you can communicate detail in that timeframe, only impressions to influence “gut feel”.
Research: In 4 Killer Ways to Use Research (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/07/4-killer-ways-to-use-research.html) I describe great places to look for company research and how to use it on your resume. Of course it’s great to use research to understand challenges, goals, and to develop questions - But you can use research to understand culture also.
Understanding culture is a crucial piece of creating a winning first impression. Hiring managers hire others like themselves…it’s described as being a “good team member”, or “someone who fits in”. First, you’ve got to understand what that means, specifically. Research company websites, annual reports, and articles paying attention to jargon, word choices, and tone. Look at the list of research resources in the 4 killer ways article for more content.
Look for the following to understand culture:
- Pictures: What do employees look like? What do they wear? Does the company have a formal or informal atmosphere?
- Tone: How do employees communicate? Formally or informally?
- Jargon, Keywords, and Mottos: – These will be sprinkled all over marketing literature, websites, and company blogs. Find words you can use in your own conversation.
- Go stealth: Part of your research is talking to employees first hand. Hang out where they eat lunch or go to happy hour and listen in. Better yet, introduce yourself and ask questions about the company. Use your Face-to-face, Linkedin, or Facebook networks to find others at your target company. Talk to company contacts on the phone, or if you have time meet them for coffee. It doesn’t matter what you ask about the company, because you’ll want to listen to how they answer, the tone and speed of their speech, and the words they choose. In person, look at how they stand and sit – are they straight or relaxed, formal or informal, expressive or flat, do they gesture or keep their hands unused? Finally, ask about the hiring manager, to see if they are like everyone else, or a rebel.
( Continued ... How Can You Use Information About Company Culture To Make Your First Impression? )
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