… Your first impression

The recent cover article in Psychology Today summarize the latest research regarding first impressions. This is one of those topics that people are aware of but they hardly ever apply them to the interviewing situation. The article summarized:

  • We look at a person and immediately a certain impression of his or her character forms itself in us. A glance, a few spoken words are sufficient to tell us a story about a highly complex matter.
  • People depend on first impressions to assess a person’s extroversion, openness, agree ability and conscientiousness. Studies have shown that the judgments of these characteristics made after knowing someone for a minute are usually as accurate as those made after knowing the same person for years.
  • First impressions are almost perfectly accurate 30% of the time.
  • The presence or absence of physical warmth similarly sways first impressions. Psychologists found that subjects holding a cup of hot coffee as opposed to iced coffee rated the person they met as especially warm and generous.
  • People who sit at a wobbly table or sit on a wobbly chair judge the people they meet as unreliable.
  • A person’s face at first glance can form a strong impression. For instance thin lips and wrinkles at the I corners elicit judgments of distinguished, intelligent and determined. Persons who were baby faced were perceived as physically weak, naïve and submissive, although also honest, kind and warm.
  • The more a face resembles the viewers face, the more the viewer is predisposed to like it.
  • A single piece of highly negative information undoes a positive first impression, but it takes a lot more… Like doing something heroic… To overcome a negative first impression.
  • First impressions are most unreliable when there’s a narcissist in the room. Narcissist are just plain hard to read. They make incredibly good first impressions.
  • Getting to know people over an extended period of time alters first impressions. But for the most part it takes a long “getting to know you” period To alter those impressions.

A study at McGill University as far back as 1965 found that people decide to hire other people based on the impressions they get of the candidate in the first four minutes.

The facts about first impressions have a lot to do with the interviewing situation. For a candidate, they need to know that it is really important to make a good first impression. Dressing appropriately, looking people in the eye, having a firm handshake and all of the things I’ve discussed in previous blogs about first impression and the first interview apply. Most candidates totally underestimate the impact of that very first impression. They will give it lip service and say things like, “Tony, I know that… But everybody dresses casually for interviews.”

If you’re a hiring or interviewing authority you want to be aware of the pitfalls of first impressions. Get to know candidates over a period of time, preferably in different environments to confirm, deny or alter first impressions.

Realizing the psychologist findings you might want to reconsider going on a job interview on wobbly stiletto heels or interviewing at a noisy Starbucks after buying the interviewer and iced coffee.



…your telephone interview

Telephone interviews are becoming more popular. They can be a disaster. Recently, one of our candidates was scheduled to have one at 8:30 am one morning. The interviewer ran late and emailed her at 8:30 asking to postpone it till 9am. She agreed. By 9:15am he hadn’t called, so, having to get her kids to school, our candidate was driving at 9:30am. The guy calls her. She is in the car with her daughter running late to get her kid to school. She answers the phone, while driving and tries to do the interview. As she drives through a school zone, she gets pulled over by the police. So what kind of interview do you think she had.

Now I know this subject doesn’t have much sizzle, but more telephone interviews are failed than are successful. So here are some simple instructions to make them successful:

Don’t take it for granted. It is a real interview.

Create a checklist… Review the job posting or information you have about the job ..review your qualifications.

Have your resume in front of you.

Any research you’ve done on the company, have the highlights, especially ones that would support your skills and experience… The more prepared you are the better.

Use landline… Only a cell phone if you don’t have a landline… Turn call waiting off. Be sure you are where the reception is excellent.

Interview in a private quiet space… no kids in the background dogs in the background, noise in the background

Have a glass of water nearby …talking can dry out the throat.

Take notes and feed back to the interviewer any important points about what makes you a great candidate.

Have a mirror in front of you and remember to smile.

Focus, listen and enunciate well focus on the interview just like it was a face-to-face interview. Be sure to listen to questions asked for clarification if you don’t understand the question… Speak slowly carefully and clearly when you respond

Pay attention to your own body language, even if you’re on the phone… just like you would a face-to-face meeting

Multitasking does not work in a telephone interview very well… don’t be reading emails or writing emails. Focus and pay attention. Rustling papers, noisy chairs…any background noise is distracting.

Have questions to ask the interviewer ready… Make sure their good ones. When in doubt, or when you can’t think of any questions, ask the interviewer about themselves! that is the most important subject they have. “I noticed on LinkedIn you are at XYZ Corporation before this one, why did you move and come to this one? Why do you stay there? Get people talking about themselves and they will think extremely highly of you.

Follow-up after phone interview with an email… Make sure you have the address of the person the email address of the person. Use the thank you note to reinforce what you might have spoken about on the phone.

These tips will make your telephone interview a success.

… “Well, I’ve paid my dues…”

We hear this weekly. There are over 20 recruiters and organization and each one of us may even hear it three or four times a week. It’s usually stated by someone who is trying to justify getting more money if they change jobs, finding a management job or basically expressing the fact that they don’t want to start all over let alone take a step back from the level of job they had.

Unfortunately, these folks have some kind of entitlement attitude that tries to justify that someone else ought to give them are promotion or more money just because they deserve it. I had this brought to my mind again this week by a fellow who has been out of work for almost a year, who says that he’s had job offers that were lateral moves to the job he had but that he and his wife know that, since he’s paid his dues he will find a job that is at least a $10,000 “step up” in earnings and, preferably, a management position. With a straight face he was trying to convince me that a job like that existed and he was going to find it. The guys been out of work for a year. How do you say, delusional?

There’s no such thing as, “I’ve paid my dues!” Every one of us “pays his dues” every day. Our value in the marketplace is not intrinsic. It’s whatever we can get in the marketplace. The marketplace doesn’t give a fig about what you think you’re worth or how many “dues” you’ve paid. The marketplace is going to tell you what you’re worth. Take it or leave it. None of us “deserves” anything.

The idea is for a job seeker to sell his or her skills and experience the best they can. The better their experience and performance, the more the market might bear. Nobody cares about what you’ve done in the past unless it’s an indication of what you can do for them. All a hiring authority or his or her company cares about is what you can do for them NOW. Your value is what ever you can get them to pay.

“I’ve paid my dues…” Cut it out!


… Reaction to the 99 million out of work

It’s really interesting reaction that we got for the post two weeks ago about why the 99 million people that are permanently out of work are there. Most of the reactions claimed that the article was spot on. And there were quite a few others that voiced the fact that, “I’ve been among the 99 million for years… clueless hiring managers, HR fools and time wasting recruiters treat people such as myself like absolute s—t!” or comments like, “let’s see, bogus job advertisements, cronyism, much cheaper labor overseas, globalization, zillions of H1B visas…”

The numbers of these comments were surprising. This small sampling though, reinforce the idea that for some reason our society is accepting and tolerating this low rate of employment participation on everyone’s part. The major reason, and I do mean major, is that looking for a job is a phenomenally emotionally stressful thing to do. When the job market is tight and job seekers don’t get fairly immediate positive response to their efforts they lose momentum and because they really don’t know what to do in order to get a job they decide that, “there are no jobs out there” and they quit looking. On top of all of this, and this is important, the distance between the hiring authority and the job seeker is greater than it’s ever been. There are going to be 15 negative events for every positive one. Job seekers are lied to, storied, left on hold and simply ignored.The inability for a job seeker to communicate directly with hiring authority is greater than it’s ever been. It’s harder and harder, because of the Internet, because of applicant tracking systems and, yes, people who “review” resumes who know absolutely nothing about what they’re looking for for candidates to actually get an interview. And, on top of that most candidates don’t know how to perform well when they get the interview.

After a while, jobseekers become depressed and cynical about the whole situation. They quit. No one has prepared them for how really hard and difficult looking for a job is. Nobody has prepared them to realize the phenomenal amount of rejection and refusal that goes on in getting a job. No one has said to them, “look, you’re going to have to make 100 phone calls before you get one person to call you back. You’re going to have to get 10 of those calls before you have one of those people interested in speaking with you. Forget sending your resume. You’re going to have to send 180 album before you get anybody to respond. Pick up the phone and call a hiring manager and ask for an interview. You’re going to have to have 14 interviews… to maybe 18 interviews to get a job offer. And that might not even be one you want. It’s going to take 4 to 5 months just to get this far and then you’re likely is not to have to start all over. Are you ready for that?”

Some people get so depressed just upon hearing this, they quit looking and give up. But look, that is the way it is. That is  reality. You can believe me now or bleed me later and you can either face it or not. But that’s the truth.

A job seeker just has to keep going, and going, and going and going. They have to develop a systematic approach to finding a job. And they have to approach looking for a job like any other sales process. Making a ton of prospecting calls or ton of prospecting events. Getting in front of as many people as possible to interview and then interviewing extremely well.

If job seekers began knowing that finding a job in today’s market is really, really, really hard and prepared for it, one half of those 99 million people would find jobs. Maybe not the perfect job… but they would find a job.




“So how’d they find out I was looking for a job?”

Andy, a 20 year veteran of sales, with a stellar track record asks me that on Thursday. He just couldn’t believe that his boss was asking if he was looking for a job. He kept mumbling, “… How’d they know?….How’d they know?”

I explained to him that experience in this profession since 1973 tells me that 98% of the time when a candidate gets “discovered” they got discovered because they told somebody in the company that they were looking for a job. Years ago I used to get all worried for a candidate and counsel with them on all kinds of conspiracy theories as to how the company found out they were looking for a job. But, after a number of years of hearing the real story as to how a candidate’s company finds out there looking to leave, I’m absolutely certain that 98% of the time, it comes from the candidate himself.

In this situation, I had the wisdom of telling Andy that somewhere along the line he mentioned this to someone in the company and it got back to his boss. He was quiet on the other end of the line and then I heard him softly mumble, “… That son of a bitch” and then continued silence. I told him that I bet there was somebody he had discussed leaving with and I bet everything I own that person discussed it with somebody else, who began the conversation with the proverbial, “you can’t tell anybody else but Andy might be looking for a job…” And then that person tell someone else in the same manner and so on and so forth.

In this case, the two people that Andy told where his best friends and he couldn’t imagine them saying anything. But in his heart he knew that one of them did. Now, he was still mad about it, but at least he was man enough to admit that he’s the one that shared the idea with someone else in the company.

He was fortunate that he wasn’t fired on the spot. But he did tell me that his boss, who up until now had been a good friend of his, seemed distant and removed. Both Andy and his boss are very uncomfortable and it’s making it difficult for everyone.

Here’s the lesson: KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT about looking for a job. Tell me, your spouse and then stop! Even if you don’t get fired, and most likely you will be, the relationship you have with all of your superiors is going to deteriorate. It’s just not worth the risk. If you’ve got a job and you’re looking for another one, it’s like having two jobs.

No matter how close your friends are and how much they like you, you can’t afford to get fired. SHUT UP!

96 million people who can work, but don’t… Walking dogs

Recently the Department of Labor published a report that there were 96 million people in the United States who could work but don’t. Academics, psychologists, economists and all kinds of experts try to figure out why this is happened. From their academic, 500 foot view, They come up with all kinds of theories as to why. Government entitlements… And there are close to 40 different kinds of government assistance programs where people can get money for doing relatively nothing If you are out of work (BTW, there 1840 subsidy programs run by the federal government). Many would say that these programs encourage people not To work. And maybe so.

I’m in the trenches finding people jobs every day and have been since 1973. I’ve placed minimum-wage people all the way to CEOs, Presidents, vice presidents etc…. wages anywhere from $5 an hour (in 1975) to over $1 million. I’ve probably seen just about every situation you can imagine and people looking for a job. I even had some candidates over the years commit suicide, partly because they were having such a difficult time finding a job.

I submit to you that there is one major reason 99 million people give up and one minor reason. The first reason, is emotional. Most of these people gradually… very gradually.. give up looking for a job because it’s darn hard to do and they don’t get very much success doing it. They get laid off or lose their job they go on unemployment. Maybe they try to get a few interviews. They spend all kinds of time sending their resume over the Internet to job postings that may or may not really exist. They go on a few interviews and because they don’t perform very well and because the competition is phenomenal, they don’t get hired. Maybe they get offered a job at less salary than they were making before, or the job “just isn’t the right fit,” When they send a resume they rarely even get a response. They go to support groups, at least in the beginning of their search along with hordes of other people who are out of work and those are the stories they hear.

They decide that, since they are on unemployment for a while, the house needs fixing up so they do that. They convince themselves that they hadn’t had a vacation in a number of years and since they are out of work, this should be a great time to do it. They hadn’t been back home, to visit their home town in years, so it’s a good time to go visit family and old friends. They begin to do anything and everything that  doesn’t have anything to do with trying to find a job. The inertia sets in.

Emotionally, after a few rejections, they become more disheartened. They read the papers about how even though unemployment is somewhere around 5.3% this country has the lowest labor participation rate since 1978. For many of these people their skills are becoming outmoded and after being told that in a number of interviews, They begin to say “there just aren’t any jobs out there,” and they begin to believe it. Even what little the phone was ringing before, it pretty much stops now. They may get a call from a few friends who talk to them about jobs at substantially less money than what they were making before and they defensively think, “if I was worth $xxxxx before, there’s no reason for me to take less now. And they don’t even interview.

By now, seven or eight months have gone by and they still don’t have a job. They may mount a new effort to get interviews. When they send their resume screening and interviewing authorities see that they have been out of work for more than six months and wonder “what’s wrong with this guy?” And now the interviews are even more seldom. If he gets an interview, he has to explain why he’s been out of work for seven or eight months and, no matter what he says interviewing and hiring authorities are suspect of them. After all they have other candidates available to them that aren’t carrying this risk. Employed employers think, “well, if this guy such a good employee why is it taking them so long to get a job?”

By the time 12 months runs around our erstwhile job seeker is absolutely convinced that there are no jobs out there and that he’ll never find one. And his prophecy becomes reality. He is so emotionally debilitated and often, downright depressed, he couldn’t perform well on an interview even if he got one. If one comes along he rationalizes that it’s too far to go to work, not enough money, not the kind of firm that he would like, etc. So he turns the interview down and the spiral continues.

The minor reason that people have problems finding a job is that they just don’t know what to do. They don’t know to develop a systematic approach to looking for a job. A systematic approach that involves making boatloads of calls, trying to get as many interviews as possible, then performing well on those interviews and doing this over and over and over and over again until they find a job.

Last week one of our placement managers was called by one of our clients. The client needed to hire a quasi-accountant for his firm on the temp to perm basis. The client wanted to pay $13 an hour with the understanding that the position may become permanent after the first of the year. Our recruiter called a guy who fit the description really well who had been out of work for 18 months. the guy had been in the zone business for a number of years making $45,000 and he had done a lot of accounting and bookkeeping to manage his own business. He closed the business 18 months ago and has been doing odd jobs since. We described the opportunity to him thinking that he be phenomenally excited and go on the interview. At the initial phone call candidate listen to what we had to say and asked if he could call us back. He called back 15 minutes later and said that he wasn’t going to go on the interview. It sounded good but it was only temp to perm, it was too far away to drive and on top of that he could make $1500 a month walking dogs. If he took a job like that he wouldn’t be able to walk dogs. He was mentally and emotionally unemployed and so emotionally unemployed that it was simply easier to rationalize not going to work because he needed to walk dogs.

This is why 66 million people are permanently out of work. Kind of sad.



… know when to say “I don’t know…”

Our candidate was as perfect a fit as we were ever going to find. Our client needed a great candidate but also insisted upon a very technical background. It had taken us 67 days to find the guy and he made it through the first interview with flying colors. Eight people had preceded him and all failed.

Candidate calls and says, “I nailed this… I’ll get this offer.” We warned him that he could never let his ego get bigger than his game and he just needed to keep on interviewing well and then gracefully, humbly get the job. He was feeling pretty strong about being the only one of many candidates who got through the initial interview and went into the second interview with a panel feeling really confident. Well, as we’ve discussed before, a panel interview is totally different than a one-on-one interview. But that didn’t turn out to be the problem.

The problem came when one of the members of the panel asked him a relatively technical question that, in reality, had no real answer. The guy that asked the question was trying to show off among his peers. Our candidate took the bait and just started talking and talking and talking and talking. He knew in his heart that he really didn’t have the answer and was simply trying to baffle them with bull shit. Everyone in the room, including our candidate, knew exactly what he was doing. This all happened yesterday.

We’re not sure what’s going to happen. We haven’t been able to get feedback from our client. The people in the company know how hard these kinds of candidates are to find and, if they have any sense, they will still try to hire the candidate.

But the lesson loud and clear is: don’t act like you know something when you don’t. When you don’t know the answer simply say, “I really don’t know.” Trying to BS your way through an interview will only lead to disaster.


It happened twice this week, and happens all the time. Candidates are asked a reasonable question and give not only Too Much Information, but way too much information and it ends up costing them the job. We had a well-qualified candidate for senior-level inside sales manager’s job. She made it past the first interview and when she went to the second interview for some reason or another she felt compelled to explain to the female hiring manager why she wore a wig. It was a very expensive wig and unless you look closely you couldn’t even see that she wore one. She went on and on, according to the hiring authority, for five or 10 minutes about the condition of her hair. It had absolutely nothing to do with the job… nada! On top of thinking that the conversation got weird, the hiring authority totally lost interest in the candidate. And what’s worse, the candidate didn’t even detect it.

The second situation had to do with a very well-qualified V.P. This guy is in his late 40’s and has 20 years of solid experience and you think you would know better. Somewhere in the conversation with the CEO of one of our clients, he started talking about all of the problems he was having with his 16-year-old. Now most of us who have raised kids know parents always have problems with a 16-year-old, especially a male 16-year-old. For some crazy reason our candidate felt so relaxed with the CEO, he told the CEO about his kid’s problems at school, his kid’s challenge with hanging around the wrong kinds of other kids and, can you believe this, his kid’s drug problem. End of interview! Although the CEO had a tremendous amount of empathy for the candidate’s situation he didn’t feel comfortable at all hiring someone who might be so distracted by his 16-year-old that he might not travel or work like he should.

Some years back, we had a very accomplished female candidate. She had recently gone through a rather ugly divorce and didn’t mind sharing her woes over the divorce with prospective employers. We warned her not to do this under any circumstances. Many people however in situations like that can’t help themselves. She made it past three interviews with one of our clients and was a finalist. In fact, we were told it was hers to lose. In the final interview with the executive VP she ended up telling her personal story. After the interview she told us that even though she had gone into her personal story more than she would like, the hiring VP totally understood her situation. The executive VP told our candidate that she had recently gone through the same kind of ugly divorce and they spent 20 minutes commiserating. Our candidate knew that, this time, talking about her ugly divorce only helped her, because the executive VP really understood and empathized with her because he executive VP had just gone through the same kind of ordeal. Unfortunately, she was totally wrong. The Executive Vice President wasn’t going to hire her because, according to the EVP, she knew what a basket case someone is when they go through that kind of thing and since it had just happened to her she knew, from experience, that a person going through that ordeal wouldn’t be focused for at least a year.

Here’s the lesson:Don’t give TOO MUCH INFORMATION !!!It will work against you

“We Just made a mistake in hiring the last person and we don’t want to make another one”…”


When a job seeker hears this from a prospective employer, he or she had better be prepared for an arduous interviewing process. In fact, this kind of situation where a company has started to replace what they consider to be a big hiring mistake is the hardest interviewing environment that a job seeker can experience.

Hiring authorities are so afraid of making another hiring mistake, they start operating from fear of loss rather than vision of gain. They are so obsessed with the fact that they made a mistake, they start thinking of ways they (think) will keep them from making another one. The first mistake they make is they keep telling themselves, and candidates, “We don’t want to make a mistake… We don’t want to make a mistake… We don’t want to make a mistake…” It becomes a mantra that they keep saying over and over before every interview and before every conversation about hiring a new person. The second thing they do is to contrive more “steps” in the interviewing process, thinking that if more people interviewed the candidates they wouldn’t make a mistake. The truth is that more people involved in the interviewing process does not decrease the probability of making a poor hire. In fact, having more than three people involved in the interviewing and hiring process increases the odds of hiring a “safe” candidate but not necessarily a better one.

Recently we had a client get 16 people involved in the interviewing process for a major accounts salesperson. They had made such a disastrous mistake in hiring the last person, they figured if 16 people were involved in the interviewing process, they wouldn’t make another mistake. There are very few candidates that will be liked by 16 people, especially if the previous employee was a big mistake. I have now been interviewing for three months, primarily because the logistics of getting 16 people to interview one candidate is a nightmare. Nobody in the organization has guts enough to say, “This is stupid. We’re never going to get anybody hired this way.” Another client we have recently worked with… a $250 million company… has the CEO do a final interview with everyone the company is going to hire. They were applying this idea to inside sales/business development people (even after six interviews). The CEO travels worldwide and he’s gone a lot. In the last six weeks they have lost hiring three really good candidates because the CEO simply isn’t  around to speak with the candidates, even by Skype, and the candidates have moved on to other opportunities. They had made two recent mistakes in hiring business development reps and they figure this is the way to keep it from happening again.

Another strategy companies have after they’ve made a disastrous hiring mistake is to “hire” third-party consultants to interview the candidates or come up with a battery of tests and assessments for the candidates to take. At least that way, if they make a hiring mistake, they can blame someone else instead of themselves or say, “Well, she did really well on the tests.”

Enduring this process can be a nightmare for a candidate. First of all, the candidate needs to be damn near perfect. Since there are very few “perfect” candidates, most candidates that are well-qualified and should be considered get eliminated. When a candidate knows that they are being interviewed for a position recently vacated by a “hiring mistake” he or she should expect a difficult process. Whatever risk factors the candidate may have will be accentuated and magnified at least 10 times. Getting frustrated over this will not do any good.

So, if you’re a job seeker and you’re pursuing a job vacated by a “mistake,” be prepared. The proctology exam will be long and painful.


Ned: “I just made a mistake in the job I have now and I don’t want to make a mistake again.”

So, we get Ned an excellent interview. We warned him when we interviewed him that he was focusing so much on “not making a mistake” and that he wasn’t selling himself in the right way. He kept going over and over and over the fact that he had made a mistake and he didn’t want to make a mistake again. We totally understand Ned’s situation. When anyone makes any kind of mistake, especially in taking a job, they don’t want to make another one.

Unfortunately, Ned went into the hiring authority and, according to the hiring authority, “he interviewed me. He had a whole list of 15 or 20 questions that he asked me before I got a chance to even interview him. Apparently, he made a mistake in his last job and he is so worried about making a mistake again, he interviewed me. I’m not interested in him.”

The lesson here is real simple. No matter how much of a mistake you made in the last job decision you made, you have to focus on interviewing well for the next job. You have to sell your features, advantages and benefits to the prospective employer. If you sell yourself well enough, the organization will give you every reason in the world that you should… or shouldn’t… go to work there.

Ned got so wrapped up in protecting himself that he didn’t interview well. What’s even worse is that when we mentioned this to him in a follow-up conversation after we spoke to the employer, he further justified the way he approached it by saying that, “he just couldn’t afford to make a mistake again.”

Ned isn’t going to get hired by anyone if he keeps approaching interviews in this manner.