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BOB LANKARD: Making your first impression

by on July 13, 2014 1:49 AM

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” they say.

Since it is hard to argue with “they,” I will say that maxim probably applies to job hunting. It is also true that one strike and you are out as a job seeker.

If the job seeker makes a bad impression anywhere in the job search process, it is almost impossible to recover.

One can make a good or bad impression at several steps in the job search process:

• The cover letter and resume

• The employer visit to pick up an application

• The phone call to apply or follow-up

• The interview

A  resume and cover letter that is clean, grammatically perfect, without spelling errors, and is targeted to that specific employer and job would make a good impression. Anything less than that makes a bad impression — a strike.

People who apply for labor jobs argue with me about the need for an error-free cover letter. I feel that carelessness on the cover letter signals carelessness on any job. A landscaper who would send an error-laden cover letter may pull out flowers with the weeds.

A job seeker who visits a place of business and is neatly dressed, polite and prepared makes a good impression.

Then there are the “hey, lady” applicants. They approach the receptionist with, “hey, lady, can I borrow a pen? I didn’t bring one.”

“Hey, lady, can I use your phone book? They expect me to know the address and phone numbers for my references.” These job seekers have struck out in one swing.

Job seekers who respond to “a call to apply” ad with the TV blaring in the background, kids fighting, and uses poor grammar also makes a bad impression from which they usually cannot recover.

A good impression is made when the call is made in a business-like manner, with the ad and their  resume in front of them, and the job seeker speaks in an enthusiastic manner. These callers will likely move on to the next step.

It is the job interview where the most damage can be done or a good impression made. The applicant gets off on the right foot by being early, being prepared to complete an application (even if they applied with a  resume), being neat and clean, looking at the interviewer during the session and sitting up straight.

A bad impression is made if the job seeker brings someone along with them to the interview.

The job seeker can have everything right but one thing wrong and make a bad impression. I once interviewed an applicant who was well-dressed, immaculately groomed, pleasant and polite but had forgotten to take the sales tag off her new garment.

Before the interview, ask yourself, “If I was interviewing me, would I be impressed?”



Bob Lankard, a retired employment specialist at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry's Indiana Job Center, is a job-search columnist for the Indiana Gazette. Read his columns on Sundays.
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