Gini Dietrich

First Impression: Eight Ways to Avoid a Bad One

By: Gini Dietrich | November 30, 2010 | 
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I’ve been curious about a phenomenon we’re seeing when we interview candidates these days. Their first impressions suck. Not everyone, but I’d venture to say 90 percent of them.Why do they suck? Because they’re not doing any research on Arment Dietrich nor are they reading Spin Sucks before they interview with us.

Maybe it’s because we’ve been using Twitter as our recruiting playground and people have gotten lazy because they feel like they know me, and I know them, so they just have to go through the process before they’re offered a job. But I’m here to tell you, that perception is wrong. It’s actually MORE disappointing to me if we interview someone I feel like I know pretty well online, just to have my team say, “Yeah, Gin. They sucked. They didn’t ask any questions and didn’t know who we work with every day. They’ve never even read the blog.”

I hear that AT LEAST once a week. I hear it so much we’re restructuring the way we interview. When you don’t do your research, you’re wasting my team’s time, you’re wasting your time, and you’re greatly disappointing me. Those first impressions you leave with my team? They’re lasting and nothing you can do will change their perception of what it would be like to work with you. And it doesn’t matter how much I like you online. If someone on my team got a really bad first impression from you, you won’t get a job here.

I’m here to help, though. Following are eight ways you can avoid a bad first impression and make it through the process to interview with the top decision maker (and hopefully get yourself a job).

1. Don’t complain about being out of work online. Not on Facebook. Not on Twitter. Not on your blog. Sure, you can write about what you’re looking for in a new job. You can even write about the lessons you’re learning by being out of work, but the second you moan and groan about how awful it is, we’re taking you off our potential talent list. Julie Walraven wrote a great post about that yesterday. Read it here.

2. Do your stinkin’ research. Come on, people! How hard is it to Google a company, Google the people you’re going to meet, visit the website, and read a few blog posts? Just like you like to have your ego stroked, the minute you make the people you’re interviewing with feel like you did a bit of work to find out more about them, the more likely they are to move you up the chain as a “YES! Please hire!”

3. Don’t offend the person interviewing you. I once interviewed a guy who said, “I Googled you and saw all these stories in big publications like USA Today and NY Times. But then I clicked on them and saw they’re just comments you’ve left. Don’t you have anything better to do?” Yeah. I ended the interview right then and there and, when the guy had the gall to ask me to open some doors for him at the bigger agencies, I told him in my nice Gini way to stick it.

4. Stalk the social networks. Most people, especially in PR and marketing, now have online profiles on the social platforms. See if you can find a company’s Facebook page, a Twitter profile, and Twitter profiles for the people you’ll be meeting. Look at Google profiles and Amplify and Hashable and Quora. Find ways to get to know the people you’ll be interviewing with BEFORE you actually meet them.

5. Use LinkedIn to get more information. Go into LinkedIn and look up the people you’re meeting with and see who you know in common. Then call those people to get more information on what you should know and the kinds of questions you should ask. A couple of weeks ago, a friend called me because she’s interviewing at a big agency in Chicago and she asked me a bunch of questions about the firm, such as what she should know about them, what kind of reputation they have, and what’s my outside perception of them. She also asked me what questions I would ask, if I were interviewing there. I was happy to help her and I’m pretty sure she’s well prepared for the interview now.

6. Prepare questions ahead of time. There is almost nothing more irritating to me than when a candidate has gone through a day of interviews and finishes with me and I ask if they have any questions. You’d be surprised how many times I hear, “Nope. I asked them all of the others.” Really? You don’t think the CEO might have a different perspective? You have nothing to ask me? Nope. And that’s when I end the interview. I don’t know if you asked the same questions already, but you’d better ask me something.

7. Be prepared to answer, “What change would you make on your first day?” I always ask that and, to use Megan as the example again, because she was interviewing for the chief financial officer position, she came to the interview with a spreadsheet that showed how we could generate revenue in other ways. I didn’t ask her for this. Heck, I hadn’t even asked, “What change would you make on your first day” yet. She was just prepared and between that and the amazing chemistry she and I have, she got the job. Hands down.

8. Demonstrate that you are well read. We’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth repeating. We always ask what people read. This is to see a) if they are a consumer of media (which is pertinent in our line of work) and b) to determine what kind of writer they likely are before they take the writing test. If you tell us you don’t have time to read or can’t list some of the most popular, as well as some of the obscure, PR and marketing blogs, you’re not going to get a job with us. And for heaven’s sakes…if you don’t say you read Spin Sucks and can talk about, intelligently, something you read here, you lose.

And one more tip for those of you in PR or marketing? If you’re not already following Help a PR Pro Out on Twitter, do so by following #HAPPO. Also check out the LinkedIn group. There likely is also a hashtag for your city. I’m the HAPPO champion in Chicago and our hashtag is #HAPPOCHI. More information can be found on Arik Hanson’s blog about a Twitter event on December 8 and an in real life, networking event toward the end of January.

So there you have. My tips for avoiding a bad first impression. What tips do you have?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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96 Comments on "First Impression: Eight Ways to Avoid a Bad One"

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arikhanson
arikhanson
5 years 6 months ago

LOVED this post, Gini. While I don’t hire people, I live out many of your tips on a regular basis when I meet with new clients and potential partners. I put numbers 2, 4, 5 an 6 to good use almost every time I meet with someone new. Simple Google search. Check their Twitter handle. Check them out on LinkedIn. And, I’m constantly surprised that the people I’m chatting with are surprised that I’ve done my homework on them ahead of time.

arikhanson
arikhanson
5 years 6 months ago

LOVED this post, Gini. While I don’t hire people, I live out many of your tips on a regular basis when I meet with new clients and potential partners. I put numbers 2, 4, 5 an 6 to good use almost every time I meet with someone new. Simple Google search. Check their Twitter handle. Check them out on LinkedIn. And, I’m constantly surprised that the people I’m chatting with are surprised that I’ve done my homework on them ahead of time.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@arikhanson You are so right that this falls into client service, as well. And heck! Just in meeting friends or people for the first time in real life. I don’t know if we’re getting lazy or it’s just more prevalent now because we can see it.

JulieWalraven
5 years 6 months ago

Thanks, Gini, for the reference and link. Yesterday’s post was voicing both a pet peeve and the desire I have for job seekers to succeed. Bright people who should know better commit all of these all the time. Interviews are stressful but being unprepared is just sily when you are up against so much competition. If you get as far as the interview, don’t forget to treat it seriously! You are so far ahead of those who can’t seem to get anyone to call them.

arikhanson
arikhanson
5 years 6 months ago
@ginidietrich I don’t think this is a new problem. It’s been around for years. I’m just disappointed more folks aren’t taking advantage of the tools that are now available. Think back 15 years. If you’re looking for a job at Edelman, there was no real way to know who worked there, what the org structure looked like, or who your boss would be (other than good, old-fashoined WOM). Today, a simple LinkedIn search takes care of that. Just surprised that more people aren’t using the tools as part of the interviewing process. With the dearth of information now avaialble (especially… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@JulieWalraven I agree with you and it’s dumbfounding to me that people don’t do their research. I think it’s more rampant now…or I’m just not as tolerant and we interview differently these days.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@arikhanson When we were looking for our first jobs, you mean. 🙂

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 6 months ago
This is awesome stuff Gini. You had that previou post on interviewing that I really liked. Maybe you should open a recruiting division? I was lucky when I first saught a job I was coached by an entry level recruiter. Then when I was looking to change careers in 2007 I had an opportunity that was big dollars and was coached by a hend end recruiter. I didn’t get that job not because I did poorly, in fact they got rave reviews back but the company was seeking someone plug and play with an existing roledex which is something I… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@HowieSPM Great, great point! Be the person of the job for which you’re interviewing!

PRcreator
PRcreator
5 years 6 months ago
I am most shocked by the fact that people meet you through Twitter and then DON’T read your blog? This is Social Media 101 — not just interviewing tips. If you tweet with someone, look at their Web site! I do this before I follow someone, so I know I’m interested and that we have something to offer each other. I am ashamed of how lazy my generation has gotten. Instead of using social media to our EXTREME advantage, we’re using it as a crutch. Sites like LinkedIn and Twitter and more company’s having blogs than ever before, there has… Read more »
a_greenwood
a_greenwood
5 years 6 months ago

Well said.

a_greenwood
a_greenwood
5 years 6 months ago

Well said.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@a_greenwood Man of many words!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@PRcreator I love this comment! Just like @arikhanson and I were discussing, when we were looking for jobs, we didn’t have these tools. Now you have access to the freaking leadership at the companies where you’re interviewing. I’m with you – I don’t get it!

wabbitoid
5 years 6 months ago
All very good points. Of course, you’re preaching to the ol’ choir here since the people you want to reach most aren’t reading SpinSucks … 🙂 I just want to apmplify #1 a little bit. I think it’s very easy to take what you’ve learned by being out of work and scratching and make it into a positive statement – or at least something like one. I also think there’s a lot of character in bucking up other people who are out of work and feeling down. When life gives you lemons, dig up some cream and eggs and a… Read more »
Nourhy
Nourhy
5 years 6 months ago

One would think that some of these tips would be common sense to most but apparently not. These are great tips even if your not interviewing for a job.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@Nourhy One would think, huh?!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@wabbitoid I agree with you and it’s likely we’d read what you write (which is really smart and very thoughtful) and be totally cool with it. What makes me nuts is people who friend me on Facebook and then whine about how much their life sucks every day.

BethHarte
BethHarte
5 years 6 months ago
Gini, your candor these past few days has been wonderful! 🙂 I must just have crappy job interview experiences because a few times when I researched companies and did my homework regarding the market (which I always thought was a smart move as a marketer, right?), it was used against me. One guy literally got verbally violent on me. It was an after hours interview and no one was around, so I immediately ended the interview because on top of being nervous, I was put in the position of being afraid for my safety. In retrospect, I think I must… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@BethHarte I love you! VERY good point about employers doing their homework, too. Perhaps I’ll write a blog post about THAT! And, I’m telling you, if you weren’t already taken, I’d have you here in two seconds to interview for an executive position for Project Jack Bauer. I read your stuff and my heart longs to work with you. And if you found a weakness in our planning, I’d kiss you! But then…maybe that’d want you to end the interview!

Sushi
5 years 6 months ago

@Nourhy One would definitely think that. I’m amazed how many tip sheets say to research your employers. Shouldn’t that be obvious?!

BethHarte
BethHarte
5 years 6 months ago
@ginidietrich I really appreciate the vote of confidence, thank you Gini. 🙂 Yes, it’s very important for employers to also look into future employees. Not to dig up ammunition to use against them, but to see how they really think, how they behave, if they screw up do they admit it & move on, etc., etc. However, that said, if someone who isn’t “social” is applying it doesn’t mean you can’t investigate and check their resume against what they said they did. For example, if they are in PR and their resume states some big PR hits, do a Google… Read more »
barryrsilver
5 years 6 months ago

You left out the obvious like be on time and dress properly, so at least you get a better quality of unqualified. My tip: Try to turn the interview so you (the candidate) can listen more than you talk. You’ll need to be able to do that if hired and it’s hard to sound dumb when listening.

C_Pappas
C_Pappas
5 years 6 months ago
This is SO true and I even remember not having the research or tools available to ‘shop’ for my next job online. Remember pounding the pavement in painful shoes, a suit and a stack of resumes? We have such a great opportunity to get to know the person interviewing us before we even walk into the room (believe me, they already Googled us I am sure!) and have a genuine conversation wrapped around some professional speak. I am still amazed though at the laziness of people seeking jobs and I love your #1 because I think these are the people… Read more »
MatchesMalone
MatchesMalone
5 years 6 months ago

It follows that it is possible to game even this system. A random catch all for your #6 is, “Why do you want to hire me?”

BethLandis
5 years 6 months ago

Great article Gini, excellent points! As a recent grad applying/interviewing for jobs, I love to hear what the employers point of view is, I love soaking up any tidbit of information that could potentially give me an edge. There is definitely so much to learn in this process – and if your looking you will find an excellent network of people online willing to share some wisdom on the subject! Thank you!

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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jenna Langer, Jenna Langer. Jenna Langer said: @jkretch Hey jkretch, I just mentioned you in my comment on "First Impression: Eight Ways to Avoid a Bad One": http://fyre.it/cY […]

jennalanger
5 years 6 months ago
This is part of the problem with recent graudates. We had a few applications for internships that were complete form letters and showed no research about our company or industry. The candidates that stood out showed enthusiasm for the product and that made the difference. I like #7 a lot. Recently I pulled out my old notebook and found a sheet of paper with ideas for the original livefyre that I brought when I first met jkretch . I was so excited to be involved there was no way he could say no to me (besides the fact that I… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 6 months ago

You failed to discuss showers. Is a pre-interview shower a good idea or can one be carried over from the previous week. Some places like Los Angeles and Las Vegas have limited water supplies.

RicardoBueno
5 years 6 months ago

Definitely love and agree with number’s 1 & 6. Never, ever be negative online (or otherwise). That’s my policy anyway. It just about always comes off bad. I don’t like negative people so I’m sure other’s feel the same way. And in regards to being prepared, whether it’s for a job interview, a new client proposal, etc., there’s nothing quite like being prepared and knowing that you hit it out of the ball-park so-to-speak. It’s a great feeling so do your homework and knock it out on the first try.

Great post and tips Gini!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@HowieSPM I don’t think showers are a necessity if you wear cologne or perfume. Massive amounts of it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@jennalanger SEE! If you had come into an interview with me and showed me some of those ideas (assuming they were good!), I would have hired you on the spot. It’s not that hard. You are someone new graduates should look up to, for sure!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@BethLandis The fact that you’ll soak up information from employers gives you an edge. Trust me when I say, your competition isn’t doing it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@MatchesMalone Game the system? I am confused.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@barryrsilver Barry, great, great point! When I hit publish I thought, “Oh shoot. I should have written about attire.” As my mom always says, “It’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.” While we don’t wear suits at work, I definitely see it as a sign of respect if you interview in a suit. But I also don’t hold it against you if you don’t. But too-tight clothes, cleavage, and short skirts are definitely a no-no.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@BethHarte You’re right that a simple Google search is sometimes all you need. On both sides.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@RicardoBueno I can’t reply to your comment so doing it here. You’re right that this falls into client proposals, too. Isn’t it so much better to go to a meeting with a new business prospect and have ideas you can discuss that get them excited to hire you?!

WordsDoneWrite
5 years 6 months ago

Gini, great reminders for job seekers and anyone else who’s trying to drum up business. The guy belittling your blog commenting and questioning how you spend your time takes the cake!

Being on both the hiring and applicant side of things, I’m amazed at how many people are clueless about basic research. These days, it couldn’t be easier either. With all the information at our fingertips, major lost points to those who don’t look into a company and its products.

As for anyone not reading Spin Sucks, well shame on them! 😉

Marc_Luber
5 years 6 months ago
As a former recruiter who coached tons of attorneys on interviewing, I gotta say I love this post Gini! I was always blown away by how often 20 and 30-something attorneys from the top schools would not get it when it comes to your points above. Some tips I’d add would be to let your enthusiasm for the opportunity show and to let your personality show. If you’re interviewing somewhere, it’s hopefully because you have some enthusiasm for the company and/or opportunity. If the people interviewing you can’t feel that, you may not be leaving a BAD impression, but you’re… Read more »
KevinVandever
KevinVandever
5 years 6 months ago
Great post, Gini! A colleague and I interviewed someone last week for a project management position. During the interview, the candidate stated: “I understand why you are changing your web site because I was on it the other day and it was slow and it goes all over the place, I couldn’t find anything”. The person interviewing with me was the designer and driver behind the web site. We didn’t hire that person, but we did end up pulling a funny prank on my colleague based on that interview so all was not lost. Also, I agree with Beth about… Read more »
WordsDoneWrite
5 years 6 months ago

@KevinVandever Just to play devil’s advocate here, WAS the site slow and difficult to navigate? If so, the designer’s wounded ego shouldn’t be a deciding factor in the hire.

A candidate shouldn’t just be a yes man. Showing that they know the product should be a plus. Granted, I may not have been critical unless asked to provide criticism. However, if there was truth in the comment, I find that as no good reason to terminate someone’s candidacy.

In regard to the candidate who read your book, that’s a great example of an applicant who’s smart! Very nice!

jennalanger
5 years 6 months ago

@ginidietrich Get this: I just interviewed an intern, anniedreshfield over Skype. She sent over her cover letter a week ago and did exactly what i like, showed enthusiasm for our product and excitement to learn. And what did she say today? Well, she had just read my comment here on this article! Now that’s doing your research. She’ll be working with us this summer, the amazing Livefyre Community Team continues to grow! 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@WordsDoneWrite Shame on them is right! LOL! It’s super irritating to my staff when someone interviews with us because they have a “relationship” with me and then it’s clear they haven’t taken the time to do their research. I think they’re likely harder on the candidate because of it, but I’m not going to stop that thinking one bit.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@Marc_Luber I wonder if it’s because schools don’t teach us how to interview? Great tips on being you and letting your enthusiasm shine through, too. This is why you’re good at what you do!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@WordsDoneWrite @KevinVandever I’m with Amber here. I mean, she did win the 8th grade best English student award. But I also love that you are Kevin in everything you do – including a prank joke on the poor guy you work with.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 6 months ago

@jennalanger anniedreshfield
Annie? You rock! And now I’m going to follow you on Twitter, too!

barryrsilver
5 years 6 months ago

@ginidietrich But too tight clothes, too short skirts and too much cleavage is in the eye of the beholder, right? Seriously (well business seriously) I’m sure there are firms that would count wearing a suit for an interview as a negative, but when it comes to first impressions, conservative dress is safe. If there is a connection use personality to close the deal.

WordsDoneWrite
5 years 6 months ago

@ginidietrich @KevinVandever Hee hee. Thanks, Gini! I’m just as proud as that as I am my Press Club awards. 🙂

WordsDoneWrite
5 years 6 months ago

@ginidietrich Well, and really, DOUBLE SHAME on them. For someone who has a relationship with you to be anything but stellar when meeting your colleagues is really pretty thoughtless. Because of your prior online relationship, it kind of implies a loose recommendation from you (only because you’ve deemed them worthy of your time and energy). That alone should mean that the applicant will do right by you and not embarrass you.

I need to start issuing tickets to those who lack common sense. Geez.

KevinVandever
KevinVandever
5 years 6 months ago
@WordsDoneWrite @ginidietrich @KevinVandever Great points! You play devil’s advocate well. I agree that we shouldn’t dismiss the candidate over what he said about our site. The site is slow to load so he was right with that comment. The other stuff regarding navigation and not being able to find anything is not something we’ve heard from others nor experienced ourselves. I think he could have done quite well if he had delivered the statements in a different manner, as you said, showing that he knows the site, but he came off too condescending and put my colleague on the defensive,… Read more »
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