You see many articles these days on making a good “first impression”.
Generally, they speak to the job interview and provide suggestions on:
(1) Your appearance;
(2) Arriving on time;
(3) Good body language:
(4) Your mannerisms; and
(5) Your demeanor.
I don’t discount the importance of making a good impression at a job interview. The impression you make at a job interview is no doubt critical and of the up most importance.
However, I would contend that first impressions are made long before the job interview. And as technology has come to be a major part of a job search effort, the quality and clarity of initial communications leaves many creating poor first impressions. This is especially true for younger job seekers, i.e., the Facebook generation, who have grown up with e-mail, text messaging and instant messaging.
For them, communication is immediate and impermanent. Less importance is placed on misspellings, grammar, capitalization and punctuation, etc. While baby boomers rely less on technology to communicate and more on face-to-face and telephone than their younger counterparts, they too are guilty of leaving poor first impressions with initial communications lacking quality, clarity and substance. So where are first impressions made today — On business networking sites such as LinkedIn and with the electronic submission of virtual resumes, cover letters and other related materials either on job boards or via attachments to e-mails. When these communications lack quality, clarity and substance the job search can be derailed and the job seeker may never get to make that other “first impression” at a job interview.
There are many social networks today. But no doubt, the most prominent business site is LinkedIn. While I know of no scientific support data, many contend that up to ninety percent of employers utilize LinkedIn to view potential candidates. This makes it imperative that your LinkedIn profile leave others with a good impression. Your profile needs to be complete, have substance and fully utilize all the features offered by LinkedIn. Spend the time; a poor or sparse LinkedIn profile is worse than none at all. And it is important that your LinkedIn profile uses correctly spelled words, is grammatically correct, and contains no capitalization and punctuation errors.
It is surprising how many LinkedIn profiles violate these basic rules. Don’t be one of them. As far as substance and completeness write your profile as if you are a prospective or new boss or employer. Keep in mind and pay special attention to: (1) Your Headline — It matters. It is what people see first when they visit your profile. (2) Your Summary – You want a prospective employer to read and think “I want to hire this person.” (3) Work Experience – Include details like dates, the actual names of the companies you have worked for and excellent descriptions of your jobs. (4) Recommendations – Ask people for recommendations; they are powerful. As a general rule, you should try to have six to twelve recommendations.
Once you are satisfied with that the quality of your profile on LinkedIn (and other business networks) is great, then you need to turn your attention to other written documents that are seen before the securing of job interviews. These include resumes, cover letters, background summaries, experience synopsizes, etc. Today such documents are created and maintained on-line and generally are provided to others electronically.
Many times errors result because of the writer’s over dependence on spell-check. Don’t do that. I recommend printing out the document and proofing by slowly reading out loud. Further, do multiple drafts. These documents should be polished, if not perfect. They should contain no spelling errors, no punctuation or capitalization errors and no grammatical errors. Sounds simple. But a surprising number get sent with errors and not just one, but many errors.
So many of these errors are just simply shrugged off as not being a big deal. On-line maintenance allows one to fix their mistakes in as little as ten seconds. This mindset endorses carelessness. Deficient writing leaves many prospective employers believing a candidate cannot communicate. Don’t let yourself fall in that category. Write documents that are high in quality, clarity and substance. And do them right, free of errors, the first time and every time. Do not, do not ever create on-line a presence or send documents that are not error free. Stand out from the crowd — Make your first impression a good one, a great one, a perfect one.