I Really Hate First Impressions: What About You?

It’s a fu*k-up. Forget everything you know on how to excel in a job interview. After all, your subconscious can betray you.

When looking for work, at the same time, if we take this effort seriously, we also seek advice. After two months I’m sick of reading about the best resume, the correct profile, what to say and how to say it. How to think, what to think, or why to think at all? You may become nervous! How to be authentic, but not too much. Be passionate, but restrained.

All for that crucial first impression, which according to psychologists, can be decisive in whether you are taken seriously or not.

I’m living it. After the initial phone interview, there’s interest from both sides to continue face-to-face. We schedule a date and time. I consciously prepare and dress appropriately. I arrive on time.

At interview’s end, I take a few seconds for introspection. Almost always I felt a good vibe with the interviewer and sensed that I answered the questions satisfactorily. I make sure, I directly ask. A last handshake with a thank you and before day’s end a thank you message also summarizing the positive aspects of the interview and my potential contribution to the company.

But the job offer never comes.

What could explain that the process stops right after talking face-to-face?

It turns out we not only speak with our mouth. As if it weren’t enough to thoroughly prepare, speculating on the questions to be asked and how to answer, we must also prepare to control our subconscious.

Body language can betray us in that first impression.

It’s a fact proven in psychological studies. Human beings create someone’s first impression in just one-tenth of a second. Shit. Wikipedia says so.

In one-tenth of a second, your interviewer made a subconscious judgment that will influence his willingness to accept you. In the case of a job interview, a negative one is fatal. No matter how meticulous and rational a hiring process may be, in the end, it’s the hiring manager’s intuition that will prevail. Do I want to work with that person? Make him a team member?

Meanwhile, our subconscious kept sending messages of our individuality via gestures and body movements that have nothing to do with our ability to do an excellent job.

Did you know that putting your head down or tilting it to the side sends a message? “I’m not self-confident”, which endangers your desire for a leadership position.

Being hunched means you’re closed to new ideas and collaboration. But a stiff, straight posture means presumption. “I know everything”. You want something in-between. Straight, but not stiff as an oak. Be a bamboo, gently swaying in a breeze. Flexible, but coming back to its right place.

And what about shaking hands? It’s the first thing we do and experts say it’s critical to offer a firm grip, but not too much. You want to project confidence and trust, desirable qualities for any job.

Be careful how you lean. Too much “in” implies aggression. Not good, unless being a fighter is your goal. Or a salesman. Lean “out” too much and you’re not interested, you’re not committed. While you do your best to convey with words what you consciously feel like an excellent opportunity … Beware! If you lean in the wrong direction your words with loose credibility.

Looking straight to the eyes was the 60’s recommendation. Now it’s straight in the face. Like a well-calibrated metronome, you must swing every two seconds between eyes, face, and nose, but never focusing on the eyes. So I squint. If I were to believe the experts, looking into somebody’s eyes ceased to be a gesture of empathy. It’s a bewildering and intimidating gesture in today’s culture. If you still feel it’s appropriate, you’re in the wrong place. Save it for the boxing ring.

Being unemployed is a stressful situation. To attend that first face-to-face interview even more. I don’t want to exaggerate, but your future is at stake. You have hopes and expectations. Debts to pay. Possibly, finally, a positive change at hand. It deserves all the seriousness in the world, right? Wrong again! Too serious projects unhappiness, you’re not enjoying the interview. Whoever sees you might think “So why are you here after all?”.

Watch your hands (again) and feet. Nothing says “nervousness” as hands and feet constantly moving. It seems that you want to run away, and hit a few on your way out. The expert advice I read says to chew gum instead. Really? Because I consider it in bad taste, but I’m not the expert. Who’d want to talk with a goat?

Dear reader, if you are in the same situation as I, don’t take me too seriously. But neither ignore completely. There’s some truth in what I’ve said, and the challenge is to know what suits you and what doesn’t. Intuition is wise but imperfect.

In the same way others create first impressions of us, we create for others based on gestures and our own prejudices. If the job offer never arrived, consider it a practice for another that will soon arrive.

And a better one.