Monthly Archives: June 2012

Why I Distrust First Impressions (Part 1)

What makes you cringe? For some, it is hearing the president of the United States say “gonna”. For me, it is when workshop facilitators advise jobseekers that the impression an applicant makes in the first 5 or 10 seconds seals the fate of the hapless interviewee. A weak handshake is sufficient to end the interview. A broad smile can ensure an immediate offer.

I don’t cringe because that is bad advice; I accept that it is true. I cringe because worthy jobseekers whose strengths can’t be coached are rejected based on criteria that can be easily coached. Now, I have interviewed far fewer applicants than an experienced HR manager, but I learned a long time ago that first impressions are often very misleading. I understand that the emphasis on “fit” provides clear decision rules.

However, the idea that important decisions about people’s lives are made on criteria that can easily be coached seems just seems wrong to me. And, as Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute told us more than 25 years ago, that is a very good argument for directly contacting the hiring manager (yes, networking) instead of emailing hundreds of resumes.
I jumped to instant conclusions just like everyone else until the first night of an evening class 30 years ago. A fellow student I’ll call Jezebel exhibited all the qualities I found most objectionable. When the instructor numbered off people into groups from the front 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, I hoped (OK, prayed) I would not end up in Jezebel’s group. I actually groaned aloud when I saw that I also would be in group #1. To my great astonishment, I grew to admire and enjoy Jezebel as we worked together on a group project and we formed a friendship that I would not want to have missed. I try to suspend judgment on people until I have some significant need to make a decision. I simply do not trust first impressions.

Mayor Hazel McCallion

Mayor Hazel McCallion

If you are not from Southern Ontario, you may not recognize the lady in the yellow jacket. At age 91, Hazel McCallion is very competently serving as mayor of a city of over 600,000 citizens. Some have been foolish enough to misjudge her based on their first impression. Oops!

So far, I have shared my own thoughts, but in part 2 I will pass on the wisdom of “America’s top jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who can literally read a person like a book”. She doesn’t make important decisions on first impressions. Check in and find out why!

Career Reality Check

Miguel, a newcomer to Canada seeking full-time employment sits across the desk from a career counsellor, carrying a simple resume that exactly matches a job posting circulated earlier that morning.  A quick phone call sets up an interview and at the evening meal he celebrates with his family his wonderful new job that begins the next day. His younger brother, Carlos, presents himself a few days later at the same career centre expecting a similar outcome. His timing is also fortuitous (or so he is told) as a full-day workshop on job search techniques is about to begin. When the longest day of his life mercifully concludes, he arrives at the same kitchen table with a fistful of paper bearing advice/mandates about networking, information interviews, accomplishment statements and one mysterious insight. Carlos is mostly orange which is unusual in a bookkeeper but he shouldn’t be alarmed. Like everyone, he is really plaid. In Carlos’ home town, plaid is worn only by sedentary male tourists who wear belts at chest level and black socks with sandals.

Like Carlos, many of us are dismayed to learn that the job market of the past is gone forever. A whole new portfolio of job-seeking competencies is required to find our next position, even if it pays half our former salary.  Mastery of these competencies requires us leave our comfort zones to a degree that dwarfs any adjustment to a new workplace.

If Carlos embraces this opportunity and masters those new job search skills he will build a foundation that will serve him well for the rest of his working life. Information interviews will open his eyes to a broader range of opportunities and introduce him to some new friends. As he begins his next position, he will recognize opportunities to create accomplishment statements by taking on challenges and realize that his evil supervisor is really just gold and also plaid. When he finds himself back in the job market (and he knows that he will), those tools will fall readily to hand.

Miguel, on the other hand, will also be unemployed again and may never learn what Carlos knows. He is encumbered by his erroneous belief that job search for him should continue to be easy and by his pride. After all, if he steps out of denial and attends those workshops he will be admitting that it was just dumb luck the last time.

Success in every arena of life comes to those who are willing to do what others will not. Including preparation for the employment marketplace.

Welcome to my blog!

Like many others I have considered having a blog but delayed the launch. I have researched the essential elements of blogging over the last few months and yesterday got my Kindle copy of Michael Hyatt’s new book “PLATFORM: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” which I found to be exactly the resource I needed to address all my questions and concerns. The very best news is that with WordPress and other products it is easier than ever to create a blog. The other part of the story is that to be one of those who don’t drop out after the novelty wears off one needs to be committed to regular development of content that is of interest to other individuals.

This blog and others will enable me to engage individuals with a “kindred spirit” on several topics of great interest to me, primarily on the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are needed to thrive in today’s incredibly competitive and sophisticated employment marketplace. There is no shortage of blogs and other information sources offering information and advice to job seekers.

One of my objectives here is to engage in conversations around creative solutions for those who encounter significant barriers in the employment marketplace, from new immigrants to those over 45 to mothers entering the workforce after raising a family to factory workers preparing a resume for the first time after 25 years with the same firm. In each of these instances, the challenge is the same. You aren’t exactly what HR wrote down when the requirements of the position were developed! Unless there is a severe shortage of candidates who do have those qualifications, your phone may never ring.

There is good news to be found for those who are in this situation but it does require a very intentional strategy and persistence. Over the next few months I will introduce information and advice from many sources and I look forward to hearing your response.

I will endeavor to post 2 or three times per week.

Thanks for reading and tell me what you think!