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YOUR CAREER

What do your online, in-person and on-paper personas say about you?

A potential employer takes just a moment or two to size up a potential candidate, leaving job seekers little wiggle room when trying to make a good first impression. The employer is already looking beyond the interview itself to get a feel for what it would be like to work with this person long-term, say experts at Harris Allied, a New York City-based executive search firm.

“Whether they are presenting themselves online, in person or on paper, job seekers relay a lot of information to a potential employer in just the first few minutes about what they might be like to work with, so it’s important to present yourself in the best possible light. Job seekers need to focus on their accomplishments first and foremost,” says Harris Allied Managing Partner Kathy Harris. “That puts a fair amount of pressure on the job seeker, but there ARE steps they can take to ensure another interview or—better—a job offer.”

Harris offers the following suggestions for making the best first impression:

  • Long resumes are a turn-off. It’s perfectly acceptable for those making six figures to have a resume that’s as much as three pages long, but longer than that is overkill and employees looking for more junior positions should shorten their resumes even further. There is no reason to offer every detail in your resume.
  • Make sure the resume is up-to-date and written with your current search in mind. Many people merely update their old resume. You really need to write a new resume from scratch with each new job search, because typically you are interviewing at higher levels. For example, five years ago you might have written about your individual contributions to a team; today you need to emphasize what you have done to lead the team.
  • Resume style matters. Don’t overlook how the resume is organized and presented visually with regard to fonts and layout.
  • Make sure your online presence puts you in the best possible light. Keep your LinkedIn profile updated at all times. Clean up your Facebook page of anything that might raise an eyebrow to recruiters or an employer.
  • Dress for your environment. Dress for an interview in accordance with the employer’s office dress code, whenever possible. If it’s a suit-and-tie environment, dress the part. If it’s business casual, then it’s perfectly acceptable to forgo the jacket. There is a risk in overdressing; you need to demonstrate that you understand the workplace culture and that you would fit in nicely. When in doubt, ask the recruiter how you should dress for the interview.
  • Be aware of your speech patterns. Don’t speak too quickly or too slowly, too quietly or too loudly. Employers will consider this when they envision having to speak with you or be present in meetings with you daily.
  • Other physical cues. Always use a firm handshake and make eye contact with the interviewer. Sit up straight in your chair. Those rules have and will always apply.
  • Be mindful of your energy level. People gravitate to others with a good energy level because they look forward to working alongside them every day. Be enthusiastic but not over the top.
  • Don’t patronize a younger interviewer. Just because someone is younger than you does not mean they lack the authority to put a halt to your interview process. Further, it is good form to show anyone that interviews you the due respect they deserve.
  • Make them notice your accomplishments. Minimize distractions such as excessive jewelry or makeup, and pull back very long hair.
  • Keep your answers to the point. Avoid going into too much unnecessary detail in your answers, but always offer to provide additional detail to your interviewer if they are interested in knowing more.
  • Don’t dress like you don’t need the job. Always dress like you achieved career success, but leave your fur coats and very expensive jewelry at home. You never want to look like you don’t need the job.

“The rules about only having a few moments to make the right impression still apply. Today, though, it’s about making sure you put your best foot forward in multiple media, including the Internet. But that also means job seekers can promote themselves through yet another channel and prompt a prospective employer to take the next step,” says Harris.


Related reading:

New hires not working out? Here’s how to get them off on the right foot


How to detect a lie, especially when it comes from a job applicant


How to start a new job as the firm’s manager, not just as its top staffer


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