We all form our opinions on people based on a mix of objective and subjective facts that we gather from a number of sources to build a picture over time. While some might argue that trust takes time, the saying “trust your gut” is purely based on that first impression.
The reality is that the first impression somebody forms of you can be difficult to change as everything they learn about you after that first moment, often subconsciously, is viewed in the frame of reference of that first encounter.
In the age of social media and the internet, those first impressions are often no longer face to face. The first impression that you make with a potential employer or customer can be formed before you have even had your first conversation.
So if you are ready to put yourself out there in the market place to pursue a new career opportunity, what should you be doing to manage your first impressions to the world?
1. Online branding
Google yourself. This is what the cyber world can find on you in about 5 seconds flat.
Most likely the first thing that will show will be your social media pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. What sort of privacy settings do you have on these pages? For LinkedIn, especially if you are looking for work, you want people to be able to visit your page and see your details. But do you really want a potential employer to be able to see what you are up to on Facebook? Privacy should be set at ‘Friends’ only.
Is there any incorrect information that you can fix or have corrected? I found a web site that listed my details as one of their program presenters that still showed me as working for a former employer. A quick email was able to fix this.
2. Your Email
The days of sending in a job application via mail are almost completely gone.
Most correspondence is now through email and it never ceases to amaze me that people with outlandish email addresses don’t realise that it can be their first impression! Speak to any professional recruiter and they will be able to list a number that have stuck in their head for all the wrong reasons. Keep the email address you use for job search simple and professional, something with your name if you can.
The other part of this is email signatures. Funny pictures or inappropriate phrases or comments might be funny to your mates but will not leave the right impression with a future boss.
3. Job applications
In many cases your first impression with a potential employer will be your cover letter and résumé. Small mistakes, such as spelling errors or forgetting to change the name on a letter when you save a copy from an old version, are not a good start.
I love reading a résumé that says someone has excellent attention to detail and the next page has the same information listed twice! Always get someone to proof read for you as they will pick up mistakes you might have missed.
Consider getting professional help with your CV, especially if you are not sure how to present yourself for the type of work you are after, as this can make a big difference to whether you will get to the interview stage.
4. Job Interview
If you have made it to interview, you have obviously made a good first impression, so now is not the time to ruin it. Dressing for interview can be tricky, so do some research on the company. Not sure how they dress? Go and sit outside their offices in the morning or around lunchtime to get a feel for the dress code.
I suggest dressing ‘one level’ above their standard dress. Also consider the small details. Clean and polished shoes, clean fingernails, toned down jewellery, not too much makeup and subtle perfume or after shave.
So remember: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression!”