When you think of making a first impression, I think most of us recall the first time you meet someone in person. When looking for a job however, often the first impression you make to the prospective employer is by phone. As a recruiter, it often surprises me that candidates vying for a new job do not take the initial first phone interview more seriously.

As the Senior Recruiter for eimagine, I am often the first person in contact with a candidate. My initial impression decides whether the candidate will immediately move forward in our screening process, be held for a future opportunity, or be informed they are not a fit. Whether a candidate realizes this or not, you would think that if a phone interview or phone screen is pre-arranged, they would be prepared, motivated and ready to give it their best.

This however is not always the case. I have had candidates stop me five minutes into the call and say “now what company are you with?” I have heard, “I don’t have the job description you sent me, can you tell me which position this is for?” or “I have spoken with five other recruiters today and I get you all mixed up.” None of these statements give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. This candidate, no matter how talented they might be, is not prepared for nor very interested in my company. Is this how they would walk into a meeting? This is the first impression I was given of them and it is not a good one. I have therefore, already formed some strong opinions of them.

Now we have all seen men and women conducting business calls on elevators or walking down the sidewalk. I understand with our busy, fast-paced lifestyles, that is just how we manage to get by. What I struggle with and does not give me a good first impression is the candidate who takes their initial phone interview as they are walking through the mall or down a busy sidewalk. There is no way they can be concentrating on our conversation or be able to truly hear what is being said on my end. From my view, they did not think enough of the job to plan ahead or take 15-20 minutes to stop somewhere and talk. Now when you are at home and dogs are barking and kids screaming, that happens. I get that if you planned ahead, thought you were going to be alone, but plans changed at the last minute, you cannot help that. Please just explain this up front, do your best to put the dogs out or take care of the kids, then we will continue the conversation. If not, let’s reschedule. You cannot talk or concentrate with all the chaos going on.

Your phone interview is important and is what will get you to the next stage of the hiring process.

If a candidate makes it past a phone screen and gets a chance to visit for a face-to-face interview, they will get the opportunity to make a second “first impression.” This is the first time to impress the rest of the team. I assume everyone knows these simple things already, but inevitably even still today, candidates show up for interviews with us and will have broken these simple rules. Frist of all, walk in the door confident, not arrogant, and introduce yourself with a firm handshake and a smile. That step right there will go a long way! Know who you are there to meet with and be on time. I should not have to mention that, but surprisingly some wait until they are leaving the house to check directions and then end up late because they do not find the office. We can’t always rely on GPS to get us to the door.

Next please bring something with you. I have had several people recently walk in for their interview empty handed. No resume, notebook, iPad, pen, nothing. This makes you look unprepared. If you want to leave a good first impression on the interviewer, have a copy of your resume, something to take notes, and some pre-planned questions that you can pull out to ask them about our company.

Finally, in order to make a good first impression at an interview, you must come dressed for the interview. In today’s business casual and even casual dress work environments, it is still important to dress professionally for your interview. Even if you hear or are aware that the work environment is casual, you will want to come in dressed better than those that are interviewing you. You will have plenty of time to dress down if you are hired. Jeans have no place at an interview.

The point of all of this is that if you are making contact with anyone you feel might be a future employer, whether be via phone or face to face, remember that the first impression you make will go a long way. You can be the smartest, most talented person for the job, but if you fail at some of these simple steps above, you may never get the opportunity to prove yourself.

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