First Impressions are Memorable Ones

There are many different things to do on interview day.  The morning is usually spent sharing your work experience with managers whom you may soon be working for and meeting the staff whom you may soon be working with. The afternoon schedule usually includes a tour of the facility and a meeting with HR for an explanation of corporate benefits.  Of course somewhere in the middle is “lunch”.  The atmosphere at lunch may seem more relaxed, but remember you’re still in the interview.  You want to present yourself in a professional manner at all times.  Imagine this…..

You’re in the corporate lunchroom of one of the top manufacturing companies in the world.  You’ve been interviewing all morning for your first supervisor position in their Engineering group.  Your interview seems to be going great.  You’ve liked everyone you’ve met and have been very “excited” about the opportunity.  They also seem to be excited about you and to be very impressed with your experience and professional demeanor.  You’re feeling confident about things and are a bit more relaxed than when you started out the morning interviews.  You have a choice for lunch of a chef salad or chili.  You see your fellow executive is after the chili and you just can’t resist.  After finishing the chili, conversation continues and your host suggests dessert.  Chocolate cream pie, baked with an Oreo crust or fresh fruit cocktail are your choices.  Of course Chocolate cream pie is your favorite, so you dig in.

Soon, your host’s cell phone rings.  It’s the Director of Engineering, who has heard some great things about your morning interviews.  He has opened up a few moments in his schedule to meet you personally, but it has to be immediately.  Your host fills you in and after one last bite of pie, you’re off.  The Directors office is a bit of a hike and you’re moving quickly trying to keep pace with your guide.  The Director’s door is open and you are summoned inside. Once entering, the Director rises from his chair and extends his arm to offer a handshake.  After hearing such great reports, he is excited to meet this “young professional”.  He greets you with a smile.  You offer a smile back to him as you shake his hand.  You notice for a moment, a slight change in his facial expression, but you don’t let that break your bubble!  Your meeting goes well.  You have convinced him that everything he has heard is true.  The meeting ends and you rise from your chair.  Pleased with your performance, you walk out the door.  Once in the hallway, you give a quick nod and a confident, if not cocky, smile to your guide, who had been standing behind you the entire time.  After a surprised look, he smiles back and says, “That must have been some enjoyable dessert”, as he points out the Oreo cookie bits stuck in your teeth.  You pause, your chest deflates and immediately you hang your head and sigh.  When you hang your head, in total frustration, you also notice the quarter sized chili stain on your nice white dress shirt.  How embarrassing!  Believe it or not this actually happened.

The good news is that a greasy chili stain and an Oreo cookie smile, did not cost this candidate the opportunity.  In a thank you note to the Director of Engineering, the candidate offered up a humble and sincere apology for his post-lunch haggard appearance and fortunately, he received a great offer, accepted it and has continued to grow within the organization.  Bad news is…instead of being remembered as the young professional that took the company by storm, he is now affectionately remembered by his peers as the “Cookie Monster”!

You work hard to prepare for an interview and you want to make the best impression. Remember, even while at lunch, you're being interviewed.  Always be ready for the unexpected, such as a change in schedule.  After eating, take a quick moment, excuse yourself and find a washroom.  Once entering, wash your hands, then look in the mirror and smile at yourself.  First of all, smiling at yourself is a great confidence builder and secondly, it gives you the chance to remove any food particles from your teeth.  Remember to freshen your breath with a spray or breath mints before every “face to face” meeting.  Also, eat lighter than usual as a rule.  Even though the food is good, don’t fill up too much.  It could put you into what I call a “food comma” for your afternoon meetings.  Stay away from messy foods or sauces as well.  To be extra safe, I also believe that sticking to clear liquids is a good idea.  A simple coffee spill in the morning can ruin your shirt and ruin your day, by killing your confidence.  Make the best impression you can.  Allow your intelligence, personality and professional appearance dictate how you will be remembered in an interview.  Artistic Impression with your lunch is never a good option.  Be well advised, first impressions are memorable ones.