(At least, I thought I did...)
An impressive resume, a stylish suit, certifications in order, and oodles of relevant work experience... as a Consultant, you are more than ready to meet your new employer. All of the ingredients for a successful first meeting are in place. At least, that is what it looks like. But you are rejected anyway.
The employer prefers a different consultant, or even to do business with a completely different company. You are shocked - why did this happen? You complied with all the requirements. You are an expert in your field, understand the latest technology, have great social skills, and yet, you face another rejection... and the more this happens, the more discouraged you get. Was it simply not a good match? No, that could happen once, but not three times. After all, you have the right credentials. What is wrong, and how can you change it?
An Inconvenient Truth
The decision whether you are being considered for a job is made in the first few seconds of an interview. You only have a single shot at making a good first impression. It is not about what you say, but how you say it. An important hallmark of such clichés is that they are altogether true. Do such clichés really have that much impact on a first meeting? Unfortunately, they do.
No matter how excellent your resume and how up-to-date your list of IT certifications are: it is the first impression that counts. Your resume, education, work experience and certifications are hygiene factors. If they were not up to par, you would not have been invited for the interview. All of the other candidates will also comply with these requirements, which means the first impression you make is even more important! It can go either way. It is important to distinguish these two psychological effects: The Halo Effect and the Horn Effect.
Halo or Horn
The Halo effect occurs when you make a positive first impression when the other person consciously or unconsciously recognizes positive characteristics and qualities in you. This observation convinces your interviewer that all of your other qualities will also be excellent. For example: You are well dressed, appear friendly and empathetic, and it just clicks between you and your interviewer. This is the advantage you need; you are already ahead!
The Horn Effect, on the other hand, is the exact opposite: a negative image has resulted from negative characteristics that were observed. Now you are on the defense. This can be the result of the smallest details: maybe your handshake was limp when you introduced yourself, or you forgot a person's name because you were too nervous, kept plucking at your clothes, or made a low-energy impression. Your interviewer will immediately be suspicious, and might draw conclusions about your potential dedication and motivation. You will have to work very hard to overcome this kind of poor first impression.
All is not Lost
Here is the good news: you can learn how to make a good first impression. It goes without saying that the basics must be in order. You must be well groomed, arrive on time, and your car should not be filthy. But how will you gain the upper hand? Some people naturally have that goodwill factor, while others might have to work at it - but that only means they can gain if they are willing to make the effort. How should you approach the matter? It only takes practice.
Gaining the Goodwill Factor
How do you achieve the goodwill factor? There are a number of things you can do. The first is being aware of the impression you make. This means asking people you have just met for their feedback. It puts you in a vulnerable position, but you need the information. Once you know what impression you make, you can work at making the impression you want to make. This means practicing new behavior, and continuing to adjust. It is not easy. Your old behaviors have probably become habits, and it will take effort to replace them with new behaviors. The more you practice, the more you will own your new behavior. Do you need some help? Sign up for coaching or a training course. You can learn new behavior without putting yourself in an uncomfortable position.