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We are all Impressionists

Vincent van Gogh was a great Impressionist but what do you reckon his first impression was like?

Vincent van Gogh was a great Impressionist but what do you reckon his first impression was like?


Imagine coming across Ol’ "starry, starry night” himself, as an interviewee -one ear missing, slightly demented look in his eye, a weird obsession with sunflowers and chairs in corners, probably had the whiff of Gauloises and red wine and , to top it all off, a strong foreign accent!

You'd write him off immediately, think he was a weirdo, more suited to a park bench than seated behind a desk in your office. And that’s fair enough but didn't he leave behind on hell of a collection of paintings!

First impressions – that’s what I am trying to get to here. They are important. Don’t you think? When was the last time you interviewed someone and their handshake was moist or didn’t quite make it all the way into your hand (that is really annoying) or felt just like a limp piece of warmed-up 3-days-out-of-the- refrigerator lettuce leaf? What was your impression of them from that?

We humans, and no doubt the rest of the animal kingdom (because that’s probably where this instinctual reaction comes from – our early evolutionary days when we were on all fours) judge others pretty quickly up on meeting them. It is not just the visual but also the other 4 senses playing to this.

Here, in the wonderful world of recruitment, we meet many, many types of people. Some of them we call ”walking placements” because they do all things "right” and also have the experience – sometimes they don’t have to the experience but they present themselves in a way that we know our client will be excited by. You can teach the technical in a role – the culture fit or more subtle aspects are not so easy.

We also meet people who are not "walking placements " – have the right experience that the client is after but they don’t get the role. Why? Because they didn’t / can’t sell themselves - both subconsciously and consciously. Impressions matter.

Success in an interview is decided in the first 30-90 seconds. If you don’t win that first minute then it is a struggle to get beyond the assumptions that are made.

Body language speaks more than words. 90% of communication is non verbal – so if you are not winning the non verbal stakes you’ll have to dazzle them with your technical brilliance - if you want that job.

Conversely, in this "war for talent” market (don’t you hate that phrase!) you, as the employer, also have to present and sell the best you can to win the best people in this scarce-talent market. Sometimes employers don’t see that they also have to make a pitch to win people over. I recently had a candidate up for an interview in an employer who was struggling for good people to join their organisation. So, what do they do?...spend the first 20 minutes of the interview looking for a free interview room.  For the candidate- not a great first impression of the company, manager or priority put on hiring people.

So make sure you have the "ring of confidence” when you present yourself to your next potential employer or employee – polish the shoes, floss the teeth, freshen the breath (and under arms), look them in the eye, smile and… make sure you have a good grasp of their hand!

Kieran Mclean- Senior Consultant