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“How do you present yourself when you don’t know someone is looking? That’s key,” David Litherland notes. “Your first impression on someone is already out there, right now. For both clients and candidates, the importance of that impression is critical.”
David works closely with talent across industries –– and Canada! –– with the Summit Search Group. In his daily work as a top-tier recruiter, he samples countless resumes and initiates dozens of first meetings with candidates. But there’s more to those very first moments than you might think. “There are countless communications happening before you even get to a conversation point. You could be eliminating yourself from consideration before you’ve even had an introduction!” he shares.
As we face a world in technological, social, and hiring flux, there’s no better time to take full ownership over what we do control. We sat down with David to get the inside scoop on how to dial in the details of our professional presentations from the very beginning –– even before we know someone is looking.
Hiring and the Internet: Your Digital First Impression
“Is your website sharp, up to date, and in touch with the world today? Are you in sync with the times? Are you setting the right social tone? Because that’s the first place people go,” David advises his clients. While neglecting web updates might not seem terribly important to your talent search, he emphasizes that a candidate’s initial Google search is your first opportunity to connect –– and you don’t want to sacrifice that moment of impact.
“Simply put, a candidate may be less likely to move forward,” he says. “An outdated website gives a weak first impression.
He’s quick to note that this rule is equally essential to talent, as well, even if you might not have a personal website to support your professional position. “When I get a resume, the first thing I do is go to LinkedIn. Maybe I get a visual there to support who you are. Is that a current image? And maybe I learn more there, as well: more color, more detail about your work. Does it line up with your resume? Are there holes or gaps? If you’re sending a resume anywhere, know that the person on the other end will research you further. Be ready.”
Dynamite Interview Etiquette
The last year has seen many interviews and first conversations relocated from coffee shops to conference calls, and David stresses that this is no excuse to dismiss the importance of your personal presentation –– virtual or not.
“In the last year, we’ve placed a number of people in new positions, and they’ve never personally met anyone else in the company face-to-face. In these cases, it’s all about your presence on the phone or on the video screen. Employers are hiring for critical roles without meeting people in person. It’s all happening without a handshake or a boardroom. That makes digital connections, and your attention to your presence in these situations, one of your primary tools in a job search. How you manage these different forms of communication, and how you respect them, is essential to demonstrating your professionalism,” he explains.
“It’s really disheartening when your camera isn’t capturing you. I don’t want to just see your neck or your forehead, and I don’t want to be distracted,” David adds. “Do you know what you’re doing? Are you dressed appropriately? What’s the lighting, and the backdrop? Do you know how to work the camera, and are the angles flattering? Are you focused? Maybe you shouldn’t be eating during the interview, and maybe we shouldn’t see people wandering past in the background. Maybe we shouldn’t hear your doorbell ring.”
David also emphasizes the importance of being proactive and saying no when an interview schedule won’t highlight your strengths. “If this isn’t the right time to be talking, be confident in setting another time. A bad setting could be deemed more unprofessional than a return call. Any conversation you hold impacts a recruiter’s perception of how your skills align in a communication setting; treat these moments accordingly. Be ready when you present yourself.”
Professional Presentation and Eliminating Recruitment Doubts
While the hiring process might not be as formal as it once was, David outlines two key differentiators in communicating confidence and eliminating recruitment doubt: respect and consistency.
“Remember that people are investing time in these searches, from both sides. Whether online or in person, create a presence and treat it with respect. Value a call or a Webex meeting like a true one-on-one conversation. I think people sometimes forget the weight or the value of that time. Remember what it is you’re doing, remember how important your presentation is. Apply the appropriate time and effort to reflect that you value the situation, and that you take yourself or your business seriously,” he advises.
He also reminds us that presenting complete, consistent details throughout the hiring process is about more than making a first impression: it’s a genuine reflection of whether a candidate can do a job or not, and an indication of whether a client’s workplace is desirable or not. Everything counts.
“Companies can take advantage of virtual tools, and offer more digital meet and greets in lieu of fewer in-person meetings. Paint a complete picture that aligns with your website and communications. That really provides talent with a more authentic sense of your team,” he advises.
“On the other hand, it’s equally critical for candidates to be consistent and straightforward. What pops up when someone Googles your name? Consider how you can be perceived across multiple channels. Place an emphasis on detail, professionalism, seriousness, and dedication. Don’t eliminate yourself; stay out of the do-not-move forward pile!”
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Industry Insiders: David Litherland on Hiring and First Impressions
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