Improved Management Style

Bad habits seldom pop up, full-blown, overnight. They usually start in small ways, as minor lapses in judgment that are easily excused by circumstances. If they are not nipped in the bud, they can become bad habits that become an automatic part of the person’s management style.

They can have a negative effect on morale, so our reporting relationships, and end up diminishing both individual and team productivity.

“You Never Get A Second Chance To Make A Good First Impression”

We’ve all heard this adage; it makes the point that first impressions are significant and tend to be long-lasting. What is it about first impressions exactly that makes them so important? Why do they stick with us and become a lens, either positive or negative, that focuses our subsequent impressions of a person? How can you use your first impression of a job applicant to give you useful information without being led off-course if the first impression is strong, but turns out not to be accurate?

The power of first impressions probably goes back to our prehistoric ancestors who didn’t meet that many new people, and often had to make a quick decision about whether or not this new person was a threat. If a threat, then immediate action was needed: fight or flee. Mother Nature took care of the slow deciders and we are the inheritors of a built-in mechanism that results in a rapid evaluation of a new person that we call a “first impression.”

If the new person was a threat and our ancestor survived the encounter, the importance of making that snap decision was reinforced. Millions of reinforcements later, we still utilize this mechanism. First impressions are powerful, but what contributes to them?

One interesting aspect of the first impression an applicant makes is that their effects are not equal. A negative first impression carries a lot more weight than a positive first impression. A negative first impression can lead to a tendency to interpret all subsequent information about the person in a negative way. On the other hand, a positive first impression can, and in most cases should, result in a sense that the applicant “meets expectations.” To the extent that the applicant wants the job, we can expect that he is trying to make a good impression. If he succeeds, then the most we can say is that he knew how to behave so as to make a good impression.

To keep first impressions, particularly negative first impressions, in the proper context, you need to be aware of your own pet peeves. If you really hate long hair, short hair, a particular style of clothing or shoes, an accent, or people who say, “ya know?”, then an applicant who displays any of those characteristics is going to tend to make a bad first impression on you. The danger is that you may not be aware of what is influencing your opinion unless you have thought it through beforehand.

The solution is, first, know your pet peeves and triggers and, second, decide whether those pet peeves are relevant to the decision about an applicant’s suitability for the job. Then ask yourself whether the particular pet peeve an applicant has triggered is one that will have a negative effect on this person’s job performance if he is hired.

First impressions of an applicant come from what we see, hear, feel and smell in the interview. Let’s look at each of these factors in turn.

What we see: company dress codes vary from casual (jeans and t-shirts) to business formal (suits, coat and tie.) Is the applicant appropriately dressed for your company? Is his dress and personal appearance neat? What about the three “P”s: Presence, Posture and Poise? Does he appear confident, stand up straight, and make good eye contact?

What about his vocal presentation? Does he modulate his voice tone and volume to suit the situation? Is his vocabulary acceptable for the position under consideration? Does he express himself well?

What about his personal hygiene? This should only be a problem if it is noticeable. Dirty hair, clothing, hands are not likely to make a good impression, and they may be a sign that he is not taking the interview seriously, or that there is a problem with attitude or preparation. Too much fragrance or noticeable body odor are not good signs.

While we are talking about first impressions, let’s remind ourselves that you, the interviewer, are making a first impression on the applicant. The applicant is going to generalize his or her first impression of you to everyone in the company. Be careful that the applicant’s first impression of you and, by extension, the company is a positive one. Be prepared for the interview, be courteous and friendly, and pay attention to those sensory factors that affect the impression that you make. Remember that you, the interviewer, are THE COMPANY to the job applicant, whether he becomes an employee or not.