There is an old adage that says that “the first impression is the most lasting”.  Everyone has heard this at least once in their life.  In fact, it has also been said that it takes 17 additional interactions to diminish a bad first impression  That is an awful lot of facetime to negate one bad impression,  and it really emphasizes the need to analyze how you might been seen through others’ eyes.

This is especially crucial for job candidates.

Most focus on their clothes and hair and shoes and even the notebook that they carry; however, the art of a good first impression encompasses much more, most of which will not require a trip to the mall or barber.  Let’s look at three of them:

1) Handshake – I personally remember a good, confident handshake.  It is a huge eyebrow-raiser (even if you do not see my eyebrows raise) to meet a professional, who from afar makes a positive first impression, only to have them barely shake my hand or only allow me to grasp their fingers.  As a candidate, it is important to stand apart from the crowd. A firm, confident handshake goes a long way in achieving that goal; a poor, limp handshake goes a long way in destroying it.

2) Smile –  A simple, genuine smile can make a good first impression.  It makes others feel comfortable and indicates a willingness to form a relationship.  Whereas, it is important to be serious during an interview, a warm, genuine, comfortable smile will go a long way in helping the hiring manager determine if you will be a “good fit” within the organization.

3) Digital Issues – It is important to realize that a first impression is powerful, even if you are not face-to-face with the other person.

  1. Voicemail – Many recruiters swear that they can tell how strong a candidate will be just by the outgoing voicemail message they have set up on their phone. If it is professional and well spoken, it will give a good first impression.
  2. Ring-back tones and email addresses – Inappropriate ringtones and email addresses are not a good idea.  An email address (at the top of a resume) that reads  <> or a ringtone that contains snippets of  “I’m a Loser” by the Beatles highlight a lack of professionalism and seriousness for the task at hand – in this case interviewing.

As a final thought, remember, that a first impression can occur anywhere.  I once was running late for an interview due to a traffic jam and poor planning on my part.  As I burst through the doors of the building lobby, I pushed into a gentleman that was trying to hold the door open for me.  That man went in the elevator as I signed in with the receptionist.  Five minutes later, that same gentleman returned and introduced himself to me as I was calming myself down in lobby’s seating area.  He was the hiring manager with whom I had the interview….this same man who I so rudely knocked into in my haste to enter the building.

The point of this story is that you will never know where that good (or bad) first impression will occur….sitting at a red light, at the grocery store, at the line at Subway.  It could happen anywhere, so smile, practice your handshake and revamp your ringtone.