April 05, 2011

Interview - Avoiding Negative First Impressions

The other day, a potential candidate for an intern position at my company came in for an interview. Some poor planning and a bad sense of direction caused her to arrive 50 minutes late. Having not called ahead to warn of her lateness, the poor girl pretty much had no chance of saving her reputation in the eyes of the company. To give the girl some practice at interviewing, the woman giving the interview fished the girl's resume out of the trash bin where it was tossed approximately 40 minutes prior to her arrival.

This unhappy incident has inspired me to write to you about some tips to avoid making a negative impression before you've even had a chance to answer interview questions. First impressions are hard to break, so you want to make sure you don't start off badly.

  • Plan to arrive early - How early you should plan to arrive depends on how long it should take you to get there. If you're a ten-minute drive away, you might only need to plan to be there 10 minutes early. If you're an hour-drive away, try to get there 30 minutes early.

  • DON'T go in early! - This may seem like a strange thing to discourage but trust me, you risk annoying your potential employer if you walk through their front door 20 minutes early. Doesn't this contradict my first tip? Not really. Try to arrive to the area well in advance but don't actually enter the building until 5 minutes before the interview. Why? Your potential employers may have a busy schedule and when you walk in before they expect you, you could throw it off and they have to figure out where to put you in the meantime. Just trust me on this one, ok? Sit in your car for a bit and go through your portfolio again or look up current events while you wait.

  • Call if you're going to be late - Mistakes and crazy shifts of the cosmos happen. Maybe you did actually leave an hour early so you'd arrive early but for some reason every possible unlucky event occurred to delay you past your interview time. Keep an eye on the time and when you realize you'll be late, give your potential employer a call. If possible, give them an estimate for when you expect to arrive. Once again, this is a disruption to their schedule so you want to give them as much notice as possible so they can adjust it accordingly. Don't forget to add their phone number to your phone's contacts before you head out the door.

  • Other contributors of first impressions - Your resume, blog, facebook / linkedin / twitter accounts. Yes, your potential employers are very likely to look these up (even more so if you're late and allow them the extra time to do it). Make sure there's nothing in any of these that could be an embarrassment and that they are completely typo-free.

That's it. Short and sweet but VERY important lest your interview end up being DOA.

Katie Hazard | Digital Artist, User Experience Designer
khazard@internlikearockstar.com | @katie_hazard
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