It’s time! You finally get to meet a potential employer, maybe even one you’ve always dreamed of working for. How can you maximize this opportunity?
We all know that first impressions are important, but why they are so important isn’t always talked about. The bottom line is that if you make a good first impression, someone is more likely to take a second look.
Leave an Outstanding First Impression
First impressions are often largely unconscious on the part of the one being impressed. Our brains make snap judgments as we move through the world around us, based on stimuli we take in through our senses. When something seems noteworthy, that’s when we stop to evaluate and make conscious decisions.
So your job in a first impression is to make a potential employer willing to take a second look – and to ensure that when they do take that second look, they like what they see.
Here are 15 tips for making a strong first impression and setting the scene for a second glance and beyond. These are written with a job fair scenario in mind, but many are just as useful when at an interview or even in a networking situation.
Before you even get to the event, find out everything you can about the employers who will be present. Prioritize based on which one(s) you are most suited for and interested in, and then research the companies, what they do, what skills they might be looking for, their histories – you get the picture. For each company you plan to speak to, jot down a question or two you can ask that shows you know what’s up.
2. Be Clean
It goes without saying that you should shower, brush your teeth and wear clean clothes. What may not be so obvious: avoid overly strong scents. You don’t want to be “that guy who wore soooo much cologne,” so don’t.
3. Dress Well
Neat and clean, but also pressed and appropriate. As with scents, aim for understated – you want people to remember you more than your clothes.
4. Bring Your Resume
Several copies on very nice paper, in a folder or binder that will keep them neat. Make sure your contact information is easily visible on the front of the resume. Before you hand it over, write a note or circle something relevant on the page as you talk – the markings may jog someone’s memory later.
Leave a personal note on your resume.
5. Eat First
Never go (job) shopping on an empty stomach. Eat before you go, but never anything loaded with garlic or onions. Ew!
6. Bring Hand Lotion
And hand sanitizer. And facial tissues.
You will be shaking lots of hands; keep yours from getting unpleasantly dry or sweaty.
7. Watch Your Posture
Your mother was right – stand up straight. It makes you look awake, interested and confident all at once!
8. Ask Questions
When talking with potential employers, asking intelligent questions can set you apart. Your earlier research will come in handy here, as will some quick thinking and observational skills.
If you demonstrate an interest in the company – or even the person you are speaking to – they will be more interested in turn.
9. Take Notes
After each conversation, take a brief moment to jot down your thoughts and feelings. This will help you remember later, and also help to keep the event from turning into one long blur.
10. Speak with Confidence
Practice talking without filler words (um, uh, like) and uptalk (a questioning intonation). Strike the phrases “I believe,” “I think,” and “in my opinion” from your vocabulary. It’s obvious you think it, because you are saying it. Leave it at that.
Speak without apology
Always listen to the answers to your questions. Listen to the spiels. Use active listening techniques – repeat something back in your own words, ask a follow-up question, make eye contact, nod. Write down the important stuff.
Easier said than done – but the more relaxed you are, the more people enjoy being around you. Reduce your stress level by staying hydrated, taking deep breaths and smiling. It works!
13. Be Yourself
Authentic people, like relaxed people, are more fun to be around. Most of the time those around you can tell when you are trying to be something you aren’t, and it does not inspire confidence. Within reason, just be honest and real. Being yourself also helps ensure you will be a good fit for the company that hires you.
14. Circle Back Around
Before you leave, revisit the employers you really resonated with (or really, really care about). This will help cement you in their minds, especially if you remember names, or come back with a follow-up question to something you learned earlier.
15. Express Gratitude
Finally, always thank people for their time. It shows that you value them, their business and what they are trying to accomplish.
There are no guarantees, but these techniques will help you stand out from a crowd of hundreds of half-hearted job seekers. Even if you don’t get a job, you will have new contacts – take all the business cards you can get – and information, which is, after all, power.
But we bet you’ll get the job.
Looking for a new position? Our January 23 North Bay Job Fair was designed with you in mind. Register now for free!