Saturday, March 12, 2011

First Impressions

First of all thanks to everyone for your supportive comments on my last post.  As you can imagine, these days I'm rationing my time and energy, so I may not always reply individually to each comment (as I would like to in an ideal world), but I am very appreciative of your kind words.

Due to something going on at work, this week I've been thinking about how difficult it is to judge someone by their resume and one or two interviews.  Over the course of many years, my first impressions of job applicants have been hit and miss.  Most of the time I can judge well enough that the hire works out, but certainly not always.  That's what the probation period is for; so that when unpleasant surprises crop up you can cut your losses and move on.

I've had good luck with people who took the initiative to send in their resume when there was no job opening posted.  I can recall at least two people I've hired that way, and they are both intelligent, resourceful, and responsible.  I always hang on to resumes that are sent to me in between hirings because you never know when someone's going to give their 2 weeks notice and then you're scrambling to find a replacement.

I've had mixed luck hiring friends and relatives of myself and the people I work with.  Usually it turns out well, but when it turns out badly, it's very bad.  Once I hired a girl who was the daughter of a co-worker, and she turned out to be a good worker under my watchful eye, and a hysterical drama queen when unsupervised.  One time, at the end of the day when she thought I'd gone home, she had a screaming fight with another employee and threw a chair across the office.  She was out the door pretty swiftly after that.

I am almost irredeemably biased against a certain type of girl: she shows up at the interview dressed impeccably, with professional-calibre makeup and a binder containing documentation of all of her accomplishments, each page sheathed in a shiny plastic sheet protector.  These girls have rehearsed their answers to common interview questions, and inevitably their references do not have a bad word to say against them.  Hire one of these too-good-to-be-true young beauties, and within the first week she'll be slacking beyond belief.  I can recall one such girl, who wore a different shade of metallic eyeshadow every day, who would scratch down phone messages, shove them into her desk drawer, and then forget about them.  We found stacks of them jammed in there one day when we went looking for a missing document.  Fortunately I only wasted a week of training on her before showing her the door.

How accurate are your first impressions of people?  Do you find they're bang on, or not quite what you thought?


Pixiebaby said...

My first impressions are usually fairly accurate, but until recently I always squashed the bad first impressions thinking myself being unfair. Well, as years went by I have learned to listen to my gut.

I know the kind of girl you're talking about! I've interviewed several of them in my time, and yes I agree with you about the typical outcome. Good post :)

DarcKnyt said...

I keep hoping I'm not a mistake my manager feels he made someday. I want to be a good employee and get things done, but I guess I'll never know how he looks at me.

G said...

I usually give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to first impressions, be they work related or not.

I do a lot of observing of how poeple work (or don't work) and quite often it is interesting to see how someone works when they think that no one of importance is watching them.

kenju said...

I go with my gut and it is seldom wrong. However, I know someone who is proving to me that I was wrong about her. The woman I would have said was fair, honest and compassionate as well as gracious - is turning out to be a vicious gossip and refuses to see another side of a situation. It bothers me a lot.

Anonymous said...

I am pretty good judge of character, but in my line of work (Navy) i dont get to fire them. I will keep this advice in mind as I have to go job hunting when i retire. Never thought about sending resume when company was not hiring at the time..will give that a try...zman sends

Jenski said...

I guess the people who just send a resume in case are more motivated? Glad to know you take the probation period for what it is. I had bosses who extended the probation for a new hire because they did not want to fire her. She literally fell asleep at her desk.

Sparkling Red said...

Pixiebaby: I used to do that too. It takes some "learning the hard way" that one's bad first impressions should not be dismissed without a second thought.

Darcknyt: I doubt that. You're the kind of employee any manager would be happy to have: intelligent, responsible, hardworking, and friendly. Do you know how difficult it is to find all those qualities in one person? It ain't easy!

G: Yes, the stories that trickle back to me when I've been off work for a week or more at a time are quite enlightening. It's amazing to see what happens to my team when they feel there is no longer a firm hand at the helm. Fortunately the assistant manager is gaining respect, so I feel more comfortable being away - there is another "cat" on the premises so the mice don't get to play!

Kenju: It's so disappointing when someone you once held in high regard shows their dark side. People have a whole range of available behaviours, from wonderful to horrible, often in the same person. It's tough to deal with the dissonance.

Zman: I can't imagine having to manage in a situation where I couldn't fire someone who was harming the team. I've heard the same story from people who managed unionized workers. It must be very difficult.

Jenski: Seriously? She fell asleep at her desk?! That's classic. I hope someone took a photo and posted it with the caption "Employee of the Month". ;-)

Jameil said...

I'm pretty good with first impressions but find myself unnecessarily give people the benefit of the doubt. Then I want to kick myself! Never been in the position to hire but often wonder, HOW IN THE WORLD did person xyz get their job???? Do you have to be blind AND desperate???

DarcsFalcon said...

I like to think my first impressions are pretty good. Often I wish I'd listened to myself on those 1st impressions. Know what I mean? You take a dislike to someone and then tell yourself you're being ridiculous, and later come to regret letting them into your life. Fortunately those times are rare. I do try to listen to my "instinct" though, or whatever you want to call it. Often, people just seem to have a "vibe." I don't know what else to call it, I just know not to trust it.

Hope you continue to feel better! And that whatever is going on at work gets resolved in the best way possible. :)

Anonymous said...

I find that first impressions almost always become true.

Sparkling Red said...

Jameil: I've wondered that same thing - how did this person get their job, and keep it? I guess some organizations have a doofus at the top of the food chain, and the bad hiring decisions percolate all the way down to the bottom.

DarcsFalcon: I used to spend a 20-minute interview with each job applicant second-guessing myself. Now I make a snap decision based on the first contact, and usually stick with it. It's working pretty well for me.

wigsf: That's the benefit of not worrying about being nice all the time. You give yourself permission to think badly of people, and I'm sure it's usually justified. Some of us, especially women, I believe, are socialized to always think well of people. That doesn't work well in a managerial role!

Lynn said...

I was out of work for five months and did get a number of great job interviews, but I always know that my real personality doesn't really shine through. It's a tough thing - looking just right (never again will I wear that necklace on an interview that one interviewer kept staring at), saying just the right thing (and thinking later, "dang it! I forgot to say..."), and not trying to appear too desperate.

The two jobs that I have taken since 2005 were jobs that I didn't really want, and didn't do a lot of interview preparation for. And consequently - both employers were dying to have me work there. :) I think my true confidence shone through. It's all good - I was eventually laid off from that first job because it truly wasn't a good fit. (Hence the five months of unemployment.) And I've learned to love aspects of the job I have now. :)