I’m always concerned about making first impressions, whether it is in my personal life or professional settings. They say you get one shot at it, and you’d better make it count. Recently a few situations have come to light that really make me wonder if first impressions are a lost art.
When you think about it, going for a job interview is a lot like going on a date. You may have been introduced to or made aware of one another by a mutual acquaintance. Additionally, with all of the tools we’ve got available to us these days, the likelihood is increasing that the connection was made blindly on a website – be it Monster or AshleyMadison.com (I’ll leave finding out what the heck the latter is to all you Howard Stern fans.
Think of all the things you do when preparing to go on a first date – you (hopefully) shower, shave, potentially buy new clothes, etc. Nowadays, it’s also likely probable that you use Google, Facebook, MySpace or some other form of research on your date prior to going out. Let’s be real, it’s a kooky world out there, and people want to know if they are going for Sake at Nobu with the next Ted Bundy. People will go to great lengths to find out as much as they possibly can on the other party before going on these dates.
What is AMAZING to me then, is that a vast majority of these folks do none of this before interviewing for a job! Sure, dating someone could lead to some life-changing events, but are any of them likely going to be as impactful as the next job that can change the entire scope and direction of your life. True story, about 3 months ago, I spoke with a candidate over the phone, who was referred blindly to me by a former colleague who knew his skill set would be perfect for our company. (It was spot on, and my recruiter “Giggity Meter” immediately went off the charts.) I pretty much dropped off whatever wasn’t an offer for the next few minutes so I could schedule time to talk to this candidate. I knew going into this that all the standard needs for us were there: deep knowledge of and visible footprint in the industry, pedigree school, all the right contacts, and innovations we would look for. Right now you are thinking, “whoa…perfect slam-dunk hire”, right? WRONG. We set up time to talk later that week, since I’m big on having people’s undivided attention when trying to change their life, and can’t expect they are always ready to take my call. Here’s where it all went wrong:
About 20 minutes into the conversation after all the normal who/what/when/where/why’s were exchanged, things went awry.
Me:So how familiar are you with us (company name not disclosed, as always)?
Candidate: Not at all actually. You guys are one of those companies that puts mailers in the newspaper right?
(This is about as far off as me being a Harvard-Trained Astrophysicist with a post-grad degree in Swahili)
Candidate: Yeah, you know, insert mailers.
Me: Actually, no…………(deep, deep breath). We actually do Market Research for the Web (I went on in more detail, yadda yadda).
Candidate: Oh how about that. Well, I guess I could be interested in that too.
Me: Have you seen our website, or any other material out there, like out Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube pages?
Candidate: No, plus I think the Twitter thing, I’m not on it. Frankly, I don’t know if it’ll last.
This was really where I knew things went downhill. I work for an incredibly progressive web company, and if you aren’t in tune with the web, why would you passionate about working here? But the thing that got me most, was the complete lack of any research at all. I would have completely given a pass if it was a “cold call” and the candidate had no time to prepare. The person had an EMAIL from me, stating the day and time we were talking, and the role I wanted to discuss. But, instead I was so turned off by the utter lack of preparation and disinterest shown, that I politely ended the call and said we’d be in touch if anything came to light matching the background. After having ended the call, I realized that it may have been beneficial to the candidate to mention doing some prep work in the future, but there is just no helping some people. I suppose I would have been more inclined to do this if it were a recent grad, as opposed to a 7-10 year vet who should have known better in my book.
In the end, with all of the tools available to candidates to do all sorts of extensive research on a company – down to where the hiring manager graduated from and what they majored in – why are people seemingly doing LESS research now. We’ve got LinkedIn, Google, Facebook Pages, Twitter, Plaxo, and I could go on, but too many people do a quick scan through the mission statement and benefits pages without really researching things that help them to stand out from the crowd. If a candidate was able to tell me about the two newest products we released to the market, or the new acquisition a company has made in our industry, or a new promotion from a press release, that would impress me.
My point is, people do more research for a cheap steak and margarita than they do for a potential six-figure job. You can do endless things to make yourself a more appealing mate, why not apply that to your career?