Make a Good First Impression: Lessons from Your Favorite Commercial
In the last blog we discussed the importance of making a good favorable impression on a prospective employer;
and how to tailor your resume to deliver that oomph factor. Once you have passed that first test and scored an interview, there is another hurdle: how to make a good impression while facing the decision-makers.
Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling book, Blink, touches on a decision-making technique used by many people, sometimes unconsciously. He talks about "thin-slicing," or "the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience." He explains how too much information can cloud an individual's ability to accurately analyze a situation, and how "in good decision making, frugality matters."
Decision makers often just look for clues or familiar patterns to arrive at decisions. One small fact can be used to
extrapolate a much more nuanced conclusion. Inundated with information, many of us use thin-slicing as a heuristic or shortcut to arrive at daily decisions. Gladwell writes that we all do it-and in many cases it serves us well.
Although you never get a second chance to make a first impression, you do get many chances to make the next impression. So the resume is one opportunity to make a good impression, while the interview is another. In both cases, decisions affecting your future can be influenced by some very simple deliberate acts on your part.
Research done at Harvard University suggests that the most successful Superbowl commercials use certain techniques over and over. These commercials strike a chord precisely because of those "secret" hidden elements.
Writer and business consultant Ron Ashkenas, uses Gladwell's thin-slicing as a thesis, and suggests analyzing your favorite Superbowl commercial and incorporating certain simple, but effective, elements from those commercials into your interaction.
Capture your audience's attention. Most commercials "grab" by using emotion, humor or even esthetics. If you don't capture the interviewer's attention within the first five minutes, they have already formed a less than favorable impression which is hard to dispel. So everything from your dress, hair, energy level and eye contact matter more than you probably think.
Convey a clear message. Good commercials have a central theme. They rarely offer more than one message.
Your goal should be to convey your brand very quickly. Answer very early one, something that's in the back of the prospective employer's mind, "Who are you, and why should I hire you?" When you leave, you want this answer to linger in the mind of the prospective employer. You might even want to restate this premise as you shake
hands before exiting the room.
Focus on differentiation. Differentiation is more than a marketing term. It essentially means how is this product/service different than every other product/service/company? So, you are certified MLS, like all the others who have been called for an interview. You may have comparable experience and familiarity with the equipment. But is there something that gives you the edge?
The thing about differentiation is that it's the seller (in this case, you the job seeker) who has the responsibility to point out differentiation. You may be qualified, but what makes you extra valuable? What value do you bring to the table? Given two finalists, what gives you the edge?
Ashkenas suggests you can use these techniques in just 30 seconds of interaction. Gladwell says most decision makers including employers routinely use thin slicing. I suggest that you incorporate this knowledge into your interactions to create a good first impression and to give yourself the competitive edge.