Making a Good Impression:
What Human Resources Doesn't Tell You

by Greg Faherty, CPRW
Finding a job is tough these days. So, if you've managed to land an interview, it's in your best interests to make sure you do all you can to improve your chances of making a good impression right from the beginning. These tips, compiled from actual HR representatives and hiring specialists, are also equally important if you have a job and you're looking to move up in the company.

1. Appearance Matters.  According to HR consultant Steve Cohen, Author of research shows that many interviewers make their hiring decisions within 90 seconds of meeting someone. That means much of their decision is based on appearance. How you dress, how you sit (straight vs. slouched), and even how you smell can all play a critical role in how you are judged for a position.

2. Ageism and Weightism.  It's illegal to turn down a candidate based on weight or age. However, that doesn't mean these practices don't still exist. Companies prefer younger candidates who aren't close to retirement age, and studies have shown that people tend to think of in-shape candidates as more energetic and positive—even before speaking to them personally. To overcome potential age or weight discrimination, it's important to go into an interview armed with a list of strong accomplishments and a confident attitude.

3. Background Checks Go Deeper Now.  Many companies now do in-depth Internet searches before calling applicants for interviews. Beside Google, these can include Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites as well as online monitoring platforms. If you're looking for a job or promotion, it's important to make sure there's nothing on the Internet you wouldn't want your boss to see.

4. Timing is Critical.  Arriving to an interview late is bad. Everyone knows that. But showing up more than a few minutes early is also a potential red flag. It makes people think you have poor time management skills.

5. First Impressions Count.  We all make judgments based on first impressions. So make yours count. When you meet your interviewer, make sure to give a firm, confident handshake. A limp handshake conveys poor self-confidence. A super-strong handshake can seem aggressive. During the interview, be sure to make eye contact. Staring into space is a good way to ensure you don't get called back for a second meeting. And be polite. "Thank you," "please," and "you're welcome" go a long way.

Remember, the competition's skills and experience might be as good as or even better than yours. But often it's how you interview that's as important as what you've done when it comes to getting a job.

Tips for the Employed

  • Managers tend to remember positives for about three to four months. But negative experiences can linger in a person's mind for years. That's why you need to continually impress your boss.
  • Big brother is watching. Companies typically monitor Internet, e-mail, and voicemail. If you're looking for a promotion, or if layoffs are occurring, it's best to keep your personal life out of the office.
  • Keep an eye on the clock. Make sure you aren't late to work or leaving early. Managers notice things like that, even if it's just a few minutes here or there.
  • Stay out of office politics and gossip. Nothing good comes of it.