The importance of first impressions

Sandra J. Bishop, president of Executive Solutions, is an executive coach and career strategist.

Many of you never had to worry about managing anybody’s impression of you.  Many of you were hired into firms as a result of a successful internship or clerkship.  But now, the reality of your unemployment circumstance in many ways obliges you to pay attention to details in the past seemed unimportant.  Through the next couple of weeks, I will address a number of these issues which directly impact your job search.

Impression management – what is it?  Impression management is a process through which people try to control the impressions other people form of them. It is a goal-directed conscious or unconscious attempt to influence the perceptions of other people have about you, your qualifications, how you look, how you talk, how you dress, etc.

Please note:  the operative word here is control. You don’t have to worry about control if you are aware about general expectations during the interview process and prepare appropriately.  You will be good to go!

First impression is important; it can make the difference between job and no job.  Marketing experts use many effective techniques to get us to buy their client’s products.  You need to know these techniques so that you can apply them to yourself, which will enable to successfully sell yourself.

Consider yourself the product.  You are worth-while.  You know your strengths and weaknesses.  You have a great work ethic and you possess all the great qualities employers and firms are looking for in a new profession.

Package yourself as eye-pleasing as possible.  Yes, the uptown look probably gets the job every time.  Your competition also looks great, so it is imperative that you have the upper hand at all times.  Remember how vital that first impression is.

As an Executive Coach for professionals of all types, I can not tell you how often I see clients who have ill-fitting clothing; shoes that are not polished; dress shirts that are not starched with buttons missing; ties with spots; and women who have way too much jewelry, make-up or poorly groomed, unstylish hair.

I know too many of you, these things are not important.  The law is important and you are a good lawyer.  But, you can not get the job if you are not invited to the second round interview.  It is just that simple.  Even if you are invited for a firm or corporation that proclaims it is business casual, please show up in a suit and tie; or for women:  in a good looking business suit or a dress with a jacket.

I can not stress to you the importance of you making a good impression at every step of the interview process.  Years from now, as you have worked your way up the corporate ladder, and are a senior partner in an uptown firm — you can dress any way you want!  Until then, play the game and play to win!


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