Your First Chance to Make A First Impression
- 2010 27 May
The average job seeker is not equipped to make a positive first impression. At the very earliest steps to a new job we slam the door closed because we are not prepared. If you've wondered why your networking meetings and job interviews never seem to go anywhere, I want you to consider - are you selling yourself? If you were a fantastic new can-opener, how would you present yourself?
Infomercial is a good word that's popped into modern usage in the last 25 years or so. It means, "to give information in order to make a commercial transaction." We've all seen infomercials about the latest and greatest products. These kinds of selling messages work! If they didn't, the marketers would move on to a more effective way of getting the consumer to a buying decision. As a job seeker you need to have your own infomercial ready. If you can't sell yourself, why should an employer "buy" and hire you?
The unemployed constantly hear two sentences… one a statement, the other a question. Yet the average unemployed person is not ready to respond to either and, as a result, many miss the opportunity to make the positive first impression that is so crucial to moving through the process to a new job.
The first sentence is a statement. You've heard this from almost anyone you've met during the process of looking for work. Usually early, in every job interview, you will hear, "Tell me about yourself." The second common thing we hear in interviews or networking appointments is the question, "What are you looking for?" If you are not prepared for these "sales" opportunities, your chance of getting that job is slim to none. Too many of us leave our responses to spur of the moment spontaneity and we stumble around, hemming and hawing, making a terrible first impression.
When I was a hiring official, one of the responses I heard a lot was, "I just need a job. I'll take anything." This comes across as too desperate and needy - even if that's true. No employer wants to be, "just a job." In their minds you'll move on as soon as something better comes along. Every employer is thinking, "Can this person help me with what I need for this business to succeed." Employers don't hire people for positions they don't really need.
Take the time to write out your responses to these two openings. Remember you don't have much time. The person asking the question isn't giving you permission for a 10 minute, rambling lecture about your background, experience and skills. Television has trained us to have short attention spans when it comes to our buying inquiries. You have 30 to 45 seconds to articulately present yourself. If you can do this well you'll stand out from almost all of the other candidates.
When you're planning your "selling messages" it is important that you remember the difference between the "features" of your story and the "benefits" of those to the potential employer. For example: "I was born and raised in the Midwest" is a feature. "Therefore I have a very strong work ethic" is a benefit to the employer. "I've lived in six different states" is a feature. "I know how to communicate and work with people of diverse cultures" is a benefit to the employer. "I've learned and used XYZ software" is a feature. "I can learn technical material quickly and put it to practical use in the workplace" is a benefit to the employer.
Ask yourself, "How does what I am or what I've done benefit this company and what they need?" Then, when you give your infomercial, it will meet the needs and desires of the hiring official and the sale will be made. You'll get hired.
Even with your accomplishments, like employee of the month, sales achieved, awards won, or certificates earned, you need to think about how it benefits the prospective company. How do those accomplishments translate into what you can do for the company? People buy products they perceive will give them some kind of benefit. Just saying, "I can do what you need." leaves you on the shelf as just another can-opener. What you can do for the company will get you off the shelf and into the job.
Once you have your "scripts," practice with your family and friends. Get used to hearing your own voice actually saying what you want to communicate. Become familiar with what you practice so that you can very naturally deliver it in a conversational tone. Remember, a person who can clearly state their own skills and what they bring to a prospective employer will stand out from the crowd. Good selling!
For more insights into God's path for the job seeker check out Len M. Allen's book Unemployed: Life in the Wilderness - A Practical Guide to Living with Unemployment at http://www.LenMAllen.com .