Career Advice, Interviews

Impressions Killers: What The Interview Says About Your Company!

It’s true.  We only get one chance to make a first impression.  When a company interviews a potential candidate they may get three to five or more interview impressions but when all totaled, they become the “first impression” of the company. This is an important connection, and this impression should be actively managed by companies so each candidate leaves with a positive impression – even if they do not receive a job offer. You can read some of these impressions through’s new Interview Questions and Reviews section it launched earlier today.

Here are five “impression killers” I’ve personally witnessed and caution all employers to manage away from if you want the candidate to leave with the best possible impression and become a potential future ambassador for the company:

“What are you here for?” That one question from an interviewer can ruin the whole day for a candidate.  That never happens, you say?  Yes it does and more often than you know.  Once that door shuts and the candidate is left with an interviewer, you really have no idea that happens behind the closed door.  When an interviewer is not prepared, it is obvious to the candidate. That sends a signal that it’s not important, which can violate the candidate’s self-esteem and well, that says it all.

“I’m sorry I am so late.” We do it all the time: Make candidates wait and think nothing of it. In most cases these wait periods are 15 minutes or longer and then the interview gets cut short.  If this happens two to three times during an interview visit, this really adds up and can leave the candidate feeling short-changed. Be respectful of an applicant’s time. And don’t rationalize that because they have their phone/PDA that they have something to do.  They likely took the day off work so they can’t even do email.

“Let’s just talk about something else.” Interviewers think this is good of them to do.  They go off script and think that they can talk about sports, their vacation, their past, yada, yada and that the candidate is going to be relieved.  Not the case at all.  The candidate wants to talk about what they can do to make this company better and prove that they can be good at the job they want or need. Talking about something else irrelevant isn’t helpful. The candidate wants to be tested, probed and assessed.  Anything less and they leave thinking that this is not a place where performance is demanded.

“We had to change the schedule around so you won’t be able to see everyone today.” When this is said, what is heard is “you don’t respect my time.” and/or “you really want me to take more time off of work to come back again?”  This is a real impression killer.  If you can’t keep the schedule intact for a candidate they truly wonder what kind of company you are running.  Not to mention that you again leave the candidate feeling that they just aren’t  important enough for everyone to see them.

“We’ll be back to you soon” is said, but then days and sometimes weeks  go by before the candidate hears any feedback..if ever.  Is this how you would want to be treated? You have given up a day of vacation, stressed about sneaking around, prepared like crazy for this interview… got all your hopes up, given your full energy to the interview and then someone doesn’t have the decency to follow up or give you a firm date for when you will hear back.  Each day that goes by, the love affair lessens and momentum is lost.  Because companies get arrogant about the supply of talent (if not you, then we can just hire someone else) the decency to treat someone else like you want and should be treated is lost.  Give a firm a date, then beat it by a day or an hour, and give straight feedback, positive or negative.  Keep the good impressions going after the interview.  Don’t kill it.

In today’s world, information about how your company behaves as a recruiter and employer is more transparent than ever.  It’s important employers avoid these “impression killers” and treat the interview process as a form of marketing because if it’s done poorly, it will eventually come back to your brand’s equity.

Guest Contributor Rusty Rueff is’s career and workplace expert and a member of the Company’s board of directors. He previously ran global human resource departments at Pepsico and later Electronic Arts and is co-author of Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business, (Prentice-Hall. 2006). He was most recently CEO of SNOCAP, the digital music commerce provider for MySpace, until its sale to imeem in April 2008. Through the blog, Rusty contributes practical career advice for employees and jobseekers and provides unique perspectives from an employer’s point of view.