By Lily Brooks
“Almost everyone will make a good first impression, but only a few will make a good lasting impression” — Sonya Parker
Let’s be frank. Interviews are (usually) not fun. This is tough, especially when we consider how truly important they are. Depending on how much we want the job, there’s an element of pressure, nerves, self-doubt, and sometimes too much confidence. Honestly, I think most of us would prefer going swimsuit shopping under blinding fluorescent lights with our high school bully.
And now, through all that pressure, we’re being asked to make a lasting impression!? No sweat…
For this exercise, let’s assume the basic requirements are there: the client, the candidate, preparation, thorough research, professional attire, and qualifications are aligned for the job in question.
Here’s some feedback I often hear after interviews:
Too Stoic vs Too Casual
As a recruiter, I’ve met and interviewed candidates who truly left a lasting impression on me, and so I endorsed them to my clients, only to hear a very different first impression from their meeting. It was like they met an entirely different person than I had met. What went wrong?
X When a candidate is nervous, they may give the interviewer too much power, coming across overly formal, frozen, or even robotic. Organizations care about personality, it’s the social lubricant that pops up in-between questions, and if you forget to bring yours to an interview it’s tough to make a lasting connection, especially if the other three people waiting in the lobby are ready to roll.
X The other side of the same coin is when there isn’t enough respect for the process. A candidate can come across too casual, to the point where they seem overly confident or cocky. Yes, you will make a lasting impression, but not the one you were hoping for.
The Balance: Think about meeting your partner’s parents for the first time. You want to like them; they want to like you. You let them see your personality, but you are mindful of being respectful and wanting to make a great first impression. That’s the sweet spot!
Vague Answers vs Brutal Honesty
Ask Brene Brown – Vulnerability can be powerful in helping to connect with an audience. You may face the question, “Why was your stint at ABC company so short?”
X A lot of interviewees feel that glossing over the truth, to the point where you aren’t saying much of anything, is better than the truth. But that vague avoidance sends the message that you are being dishonest and that is a tough feeling for your interviewer to shake.
X Brutal Honesty, on the other hand, can be mistaken for a lack of discretion, especially when oversharing about past organizations, people, or relationships. When part of the impression that you leave is one of being a gossip, even an otherwise perfect interview won’t overshadow that.
The Balance: Professional honesty dictates that you share how important workplace culture is to you, and you typically would not quit without another job, but your values were not aligned; that you had to make a choice to cut ties so you could find an opportunity that allowed you to be a leading contributor and a happy employee.
You come across:
- Not bitter
Eager Beaver vs Too Cool for School
This one is close to my heart, so I am going to be incredibly clear about things to stay away from in an interview, and maybe just in general:
X Interrupting your interviewer. Yes, it’s done out of excitement, but it’s ALWAYS rude. ALWAYS.
X Answering a question they did not ask. Often this happens when you don’t know the answer to the question they asked. Just be honest or ask for clarity if you are unsure.
X Expressing why you need the job versus why you’re qualified for the job. The last year or so has been awful and has affected a lot of people, but sharing your financial difficulties as a reason for applying is never a good idea. Conversely, you don’t want to seem like you don’t care if you get the job or not, so be mindful of these traits as well:
X Frowning and behaving like you don’t want to be there.
X Having a condescending tone. In interviews and in life, in general.
X Assuming something is obvious to everyone. If you are asked to walk through a process that you understand well—go through it step by step as a teacher would. Making assumptions of what others “should” know can be construed as arrogant.
The Balance: Trust that your interviewer knows what they are doing. You may want to speak to a different skill set, a different experience, or expand on something they aren’t asking for but participate in the interview you are in, not the interview you want. Trust that they are asking what they want to hear about.
Closing Thoughts from Maya Angelou
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”