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How To Score With The First Impression

Ramon Greenwood -- There is no second chance to make a good first impression. That's for sure when it comes to a job interview. Winners know that good first impressions translate into reaching their career goals.

A first impression is the sum total of all the signals you transmit: verbal communications, sending and receiving messages; body language; self confidence without over-the-top ego; timing; evidence of preparation.

-- Be prepared to make your case with a "sales presentation" that concentrates on three of four key points from your career path. Drive home those points.

-- Be aware of timing. Don't appear to be too eager. Don't arrive too early for the interview...10 to 15 minutes is about right. Being late is a killer. Be sensitive to the interviewer's signals that the meeting is over. Don't hang on as if you are overly anxious to make the sale.

-- Mind your body language. If a handshake is indicated by the interviewer make sure yours is firm, neither crushing nor a dead fish. Sit up right, leaning a bit forward, feet firmly planted on the floor.

-- Focus on the interviewer. Maintain eye contact; don't let your eyes wander around the room. No tapping of fingers, jiggling of feet, or signs of nervousness.

-- Keep in mind that to be most effective an interview is a two-way conversation. Let the interviewer take the lead, but ask questions and offer comments that demonstrate your knowledge and develop information about the opportunity.

-- Keep your troubles to yourself. Your personal woes have no place in the interview, nor do criticisms of your past employers and negative stories from your career path. Be upbeat, but don't cross the line between interest and enthusiasm and eagerness.

-- Differentiate yourself from other applicants, but don't go overboard to be different. No stunts in appearance and presentation. Strive to be memorable. Customize yourself for the position. Show the reasons you are a strong fit for the position. Offer examples of career successes, not just the responsibilities you've held.

-- Demonstrate that you have prepared for the interview by showing that you've made an effort to gain at least some basic information about the potential employer's business. (Study news reports and annuals reports, Google the company and the industry, and consult with people who have knowledge of the company/industry.)

-- Be prepared to handle the question of compensation. Let the interviewer raise the issue of salary and perks. (A recent survey shows that about two-thirds of interviewers discuss the subject in the first or second interview.)

-- If asked, be honest about your compensation package in your present (or last) job. If you are asked to discuss what you expect, respond by saying that is difficult because you don't know the prospective employer's pay scale; express confidence that the compensation for the position would be competitive for the industry and the market. Know ahead of time the average pay scale for the job.

Most people do not feel comfortable discussing the subject of compensation. Expect too little and leave money on the table; expect too much and scare away the potential employer.

But the fact of the matter it is not unusual for an employer to have as much as five percent "wiggle room" for direct pay when making the first offer. There is often some flexibility in benefits and working conditions.

The key is to be reasonable and to stay within bounds of what's happening with the interviewing company and the industry in which it does business.

Follow up after one week. Express appreciation for the opportunity to interview and convey your interest in the position. Inquiry as to the state of your candidacy and the schedule for a decision.

Winners know that good first impressions translate into reaching their career goals.

For free career coaching click here You'll receive The Career Accelerator, Ramon Greenwood's semi-monthly newsletter. You can also visit his Your Blog For Career Advice via this route. Greenwood' coaches from a world of experience, including serving as Senior Vice President of American Express, an entrepreneur, professional director, career coach, and author.

© 2009 Ramon Greenwood

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.