Q: I have one year of professional experience. I graduated from a good college in 2015. I was recently given really harsh feedback from a recruiter. The recruiter told me I didn’t advance in the selection process with a local company because I didn’t stand, introduce myself, and shake the hiring manager’s hand when she entered the reception area. Isn’t that a bit harsh? To be excluded because of that? It took so many steps to even land this interview.
A: Well, you have learned a valuable lesson. Always, always, always . . . stand up, maintain good eye contact, extend your hand, smile, and clearly state, “I am John Smith. I am pleased to meet you.” OK, I am being quite literal, but this is required in most professional workplaces. This greeting sets the tone. You are perceived as either a professional or not. Because you did not perform the expected greeting, the hiring manager probably made a quick decision about you, probably based on your overly casual approach to the initial greeting. She might have assumed you were not professional enough. Thankfully, you can easily correct the way in which you greet someone. Some men mistakenly assume that they should address a woman differently in a professional setting. Sometimes they avoid the handshake. This is also a mistake.
If a religious or medical reason prohibits a candidate’s ability to shake hands, a candidate should explain this request simply and quickly. The candidate should still stand up and greet the hiring representative warmly, with a greeting like: “Hi. I am John Smith. I am sorry I am just getting over poison ivy so it is best if I don’t shake hands today. Thank you for understanding. I am glad to be here at ABC Co. and eager to learn more about the position of credit analyst.”
The saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is true. The clothing you choose for an interview counts. Your promptness counts. How you first greet the interviewer counts. How you interact with the receptionist even counts.
Take the feedback the recruiter shared and learn from it. Better to know this now than sometime in the future.
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group in Hopkinton.