Tag Archives: first impression

Jobseeker – Are You an Obvious “Poser”?

Savvy employers have always looked for reliable short-hand methods for identifying a “poser” – the one who talks a good story but doesn’t really know how to do the job.

Rusty HammerIn the early 50s, my father worked as a carpenter on construction projects in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Unemployment was high and would-be carpenters approached the foreman virtually every morning. He didn’t ask for a resume, he just asked ask to see what was in that toolbox that each one brought to the job site, hoping to work that day. Anyone with a toolbox full of shiny new tools was summarily dismissed as an obvious “poser”. Brilliant! The tools of an experienced carpenter are well worn.
Here are a few lessons we can learn from this simple story:

  • Know the typical indicators that hiring managers in your field use to screen applicants. Conduct information interviews with people already working in similar organizations, the one you’re applying to if possible. Don’t just guess. Be sure.
  • Once you know “well-worn hammer” for your field, demonstrate it. Today’s hiring manager may have had more formal training in modern interview techniques, but is just as busy as that foreman. That places employs simple “rules of thumb” to eliminate unsuitable candidates at a premium.
  • Prepare thoroughly to avoid elimination. If they don’t like to see shiny new briefcases, borrow one that has seen a little use. If they care more about attitude than grades, practice that smile!
  • Build a portfolio of completed projects as evidence that you really do know how to use a hammer and bring it with you to the interview.
  • You may dislike some of the decision rules that you encounter. You might think they’re unfair or arbitrary, even idiosyncratic! That’s OK. When you have their job, you’ll get to have your own arbitrary policies!

In his new ebook, “’Headhunter’ Hiring Secrets”, Skip Freeman advises jobseekers that today’s employers are looking for reasons to exclude you from consideration, not to include you. Hoping that a kindly foreman will overlook your shiny tools ensures that you stay excluded.

Photo from phidauex on Flickr.com

Why I Distrust First Impressions (Part 2)

My first impression on meeting someone new is a very unreliable guide for the important decisions. In the workplace and even in the church, we often need to ascertain who is dependable or trustworthy. In my recent training, I have learned in some depth about the implications of our differing temperaments. I began to wonder whether I might simply be less skilled than others in employing first impressions for hiring and other important decisions. Perhaps I am, but I was intrigued a few years ago to encounter an excellent book by “America’s top jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who can literally read a person like a book”. She wrote “Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior– Anytime, Anyplace.” As a jury consultant, her livelihood depends on adroitly culling those prospective jurors who are likely to view the accused adversely. Her excellent advice is invaluable for anyone who needs to assess individuals. Despite being a highly skilled and experienced predictor of individual behaviour, Jo-Ellan defers a decision as long as possible, because she knows there is always one more vital piece of highly relevant information that she doesn’t yet know. Thank you Jo-Ellan!
When I meet a client, I notice a limp handshake or a broad confident smile just like anyone else and I find that interesting but far from conclusive. So I endeavour to watch and wait and grant others the benefit of my doubt (thanks, golden rule!). When I coach individuals including jobseekers, my first impression of them provides nothing more than tentative information that I can share to their benefit when appropriate.

A future entry will address the challenges we have with those we experience as “difficult” in the workplace and other environments. I have identified more than 15 distinct reasons that my coworker might seem to be “House” or “Jezebel” in my workplace. Many of them have nothing to do with me but neither do they neessarily indicate an evil nature in the other person. For now, consider that every one of us is likely to be a “difficult person” to someone!

Do you record your first impressions in ink or pencil? Let me know!

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!