Books are, indeed, judged by their covers. In the job market, that means your first impression carries weight. A big job-hunting barrier can be navigating online application processes. But in every job search there are face-to-face, make-or-break encounters.
At job fairs
Some first impressions occur at job fairs. You won't get interviewed at depth at job fairs, but how you present yourself can influence how the recruiter handles your resume.
• Dress professionally. No caps, athletic shoes, sweats or unkempt clothes. If the wind was blowing, comb your hair before making the rounds.
• Turn off your cell phone!
• Don't carry a bulging briefcase. Carry a slim folder holding your resumes. Don't carry a water bottle or coffee mug. And don't load up on giveaway trinkets from employers' booths — at least not until you're ready to leave.
• Greet recruiters with a firm handshake and a friendly face. Practice your one- or two-sentence "speech" about who you are and what you do. Don't whine. Don't talk about being jobless. Don't dump on your former employer. Be positive.
At the interview
The most important first impression, of course, comes in a job interview. Your image starts being set the second you get on the property. Be nice to everyone: the parking lot attendant, receptionist or administrative assistant on up.
• You will, of course, be dressed appropriately.
• Your cell phone will be off and out of sight.
• You will not have friends, children, parents or spouse in tow.
• Decline any offer for drinks or food while you're waiting. Keep one hand free for your briefcase or folder and the other one free to shake hands.
• Again, shake firmly when the interviewer calls you in. Look him or her in the eyes. Be friendly without being smarmy. Don't sit until you're offered a chair.
• As at a job fair, be ready with your "speech" — your brief commercial about how your experience and skills make you perfect for the job at hand. Again, no complaints about job loss or past employers.
• Stand and sit tall. Exude confidence. And do your homework about the company and the job. Don't get tagged as the one with stupid questions.