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You Only Get One Shot! Q&A on Making Your First Impression Your Best

This is Alex – he’s our resident expert on First Impressions! Want his job? Email

Before he leaves us to pursue his passion of the performing arts and dream to perform on Broadway – it is bittersweet! – we sat down with Alex Riney, our resident expert, to discuss his role and how to make a standout first impression in just a few easy steps. Not only has Alex been with Clarity for 5 years as our Front Office Coordinator, he also happens to be responsible for making a great impression for our company to everyone that walks in our door ー and trust me, it’s a lot of people who visit us every week! In turn, we like to call Alex our Director of First Impressions because he is Clarity’s gatekeeper, and he knows a thing or two about how to make a positive first impression after fielding so many visitors. Before he leaves his permanent post with us, we wanted to share his wisdom with you, and also share more about his role here ー know anyone that could fill his shoes? We’re actively hiring for his position!

You meet over a hundred candidates a week ー  what makes a lasting positive impression on you? It’s so simple to make a good first impression, yet more often than you’d think, these simple acts are overlooked! If you’re coming into Clarity or any office to interview for a job, you will want to have done your homework and make sure you’re prepared. Did they ask you verbally or through email to bring a resume? And, please know that even if they did not ask you to bring one, you should ALWAYS have a copy of, or five!, on-hand when interviewing! Do you know who you’re interviewing with? Did you complete any paperwork requested of you beforehand? Make sure you have all of this sorted out first and foremost. Here are three more essentials you must heed that definitely making a lasting impression on me:

  • Timeliness: Be sure you’re on-time or a few minutes early, and emphasis on a “few” minutes early. 30-45 minutes early is too much, and 3-5 is too little. If you’re in the area substantially early, walk around the block and call your Mom, grab a coffee, pretend to shop at a nearby Duane Reade… anything so that you’re not walking into the office with that much time to kill! A good sweet-spot would be 10 to 15 minutes early. Long enough to check-in, pass through security, maybe complete any last-minute paperwork or an application, and most importantly, to breathe. It’s a job interview, you might be nervous and that’s okay! Nobody at the front is going to throw you any side-eye for getting to the office 10 minutes early to relax and review your resume.
  • Just being NICE! Beyond arriving early/on-time, and general preparedness, it goes without saying to be polite. You have no idea what responsibilities the person sitting up-front is working on. They could be desperately trying to make a deadline for some mission-critical business function. It’s 2018, and “reception” of “front office coordinator” can mean far more than just answering phones a la a Mad Men secretary on a switchboard. Trust me, you’d be surprised at the responsibilities many front-of-house office coordinators are also juggling in addition to announcing your arrival to whomever is scheduled to see you, and just like you, they deserve to be treated with respect. See more later in this post on my feelings about rudeness…
  • Follow Our Lead: Finally, and this sort of falls under “be polite”, but let whomever is getting you/ your paperwork ready for your interview lead the dance. You may have been to 100 interviews this week, but our process is probably different from Company A, B and C. Allow us to guide you. If we need something, we’ll ask. It’s your first time in our office, it’s likely my zillionth time on-boarding a prospective candidate. Read the room, and trust me, I got you!

Given your front of house position at Clarity, you see it all! While you know the job search is a sensitive topic for many of our visitors, what’s an inexcusable deal-breaker that resonates with you most? Walking into the office and being rude/ having an attitude is the number 1 deal-breaker for me, and probably most people you interact with. Believe me when I say that your interview starts the second you walk into the building and doesn’t end until you are back out on the street. That said, leave whatever negativity you picked up on your walk over at the door. If you walk in and act like Snotty McSnotterson, I promise you, I will let your recruiter know. You may be great in the room, and might wow the recruiter, but if we can’t trust that you’re going to show up to a client’s office with a positive demeanor, how can we advocate for you? Also, fun fact, you truly never know who you’re standing with in the building. We had a candidate leave  their interview one day and ride the elevator down with our CEO and they didn’t know it! Keep your positive demeanor going until the very end. Or better yet, keep it with you wherever life takes you!

Say for example, as you mentioned, someone doesn’t have their resume on them even though they received your informative confirmation email instructing them to bring one in. How have candidates bounced back from an apparent lack of attention to detail or an initial hiccup? At my core, I’m basically a 90 year-old Grandpa on the inside and live in a time with rotary telephones (millennials can Google them) and black and white movies, so the no resume thing is a pet-peeve of mine. It’s an interview, you should have one. Even though, again, it’s 2018 and many places are digital, you should always, always, always have a hard copy. Fully-digital companies have WiFi go down or power outages occasionally. Things happen, and having that hard-copy will put you a step-above the rest.

That said, if you don’t have one, politely say you didn’t bring one up front. It’s even ok to call ahead and say you can’t print one out (explanation not required) and ask if we can have one ready. This shows us that you’re proactive and pay attention to details. We like this!

It doesn’t do anyone any good for you to make up an excuse as to why you didn’t bring one. “My printer ran out of ink/died/broke/exploded/etc this morning” are all today’s equivalent of “my dog ate my homework” and I’ve heard them all. Bottom-line, you’re not prepared. It’s ok. Just ask if I’m able to print one out for you. I’m going to say yes. I’m also not likely going to tell the recruiter you didn’t have one. BUT if you’re rude about it, and say that you were never told (which would fall under the category of un-prepared because all our candidates receive a confirmation email, written by Moi, that includes instructions to bring a resume) or that you’re a “digital person” I’m definitely letting the recruiter know. It won’t necessarily cost you the job, but an un-prepared person that’s simultaneously punting blame and/or being rude will have an uphill climb on their job search and beyond.

You maintain a cheerful, friendly disposition all day ー what are some of your top tips to maintain good energy while meeting new people all week long? Oof, top tips for maintaining good energy? Is a comical amount of coffee on an hourly basis a tip? Truthfully, it’s super-helpful to work with a positive team who bring exciting and excited candidates into the office. We have a CEO who is jazzed that I keep my pink llama named Lucy on the front desk. How can you not smile looking at a fuzzy pink lama? I mean really. All this combined with knowing I’m helping someone, in some small way, move on into maybe their first job or their next big opportunity is super-rewarding.

Of course, I have days where I’m a little dark and twisty (points to anyone who knows that Shondaland show!), we all do, but they’re few and far between. On those days, hitting the pause button, taking a few minutes away from the phone and the desk and stepping out to walk around the block, maybe grabbing a coffee at the coffee shop on literally every corner (it’s midtown, afterall!), helps to just have a mini re-set. Beyond that I rely on my team a lot. The best part of Clarity is that we’re truly a team here at Clarity and not simply “co-workers”. Communication is key, and you should try to maintain self-awareness to know when you’re not communicating your best, and then take action to fix it.

We understand you’re leaving us in a few short weeks to pursue your passion of performing arts – we are going to miss you so much, but are so psyched for you! Any advice for candidates specifically interested in filling your shoes and serving as our Director of First Impressions? Oh, and please don’t forget about us when you become a big star!I’m going to miss everyone at Clarity too! Deciding if I should leave or not was a super-tough choice to make, but I’m excited for all the new possibilities to come! I love that title, “Director of 1st Impressions”, it’s very apt to this position. Not only is my role one that provides the first impression for anyone dealing with Clarity, but also, I get the first take on new candidates and clients coming through or calling in.

With that in mind, I’d tell the new rockstar in this seat to stay flexible. This role, more than most, can go in 100 different directions on any given day. Between candidates coming through, clients calling / emailing and internal requests, every day is different so keeping flexible is key. Also, organization. If a chorus of angels doesn’t ring out to you when you walk into a Staples, this is not the right role for you.

Keeping an obsessive-level of organization will help insurmountably when you’ve got to drop one task to take on something urgent, and then three candidates walk in the door, and then 4 hours have passed, but that task from 9:30AM still needs to be completed, so staying organized will help to be able to jump back in and finish.

Most importantly, be ready to stay positive and have fun! Working as the Front Office Coordinator at Clarity is busy and stressful, but it’s also a wonderful challenge everyday. The team at Clarity is truly top-notch and makes even the craziest day exciting and funny and fantastic. You’re going to work hard every day, but you’re also going to get to play hard with a team of people who strive everyday to give 110%. Be excited. You’re in for a fantastic ride!

Think you have what it takes to step into this crucial role? Shoot us an email or reach out to our Head of People directly, Colleen Robson: We look forward to hearing from you!

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