Thursday, May 6, 2010


We were discussing the finer points of making great first impressions when my friend, Clay, brought up an unusual consideration.


“What?” a number of us said, almost in unison. “Cars?”

“Absolutely,” he said. “Look, anyone can clean up and dress up to make a good face-to-face impression. But look at the cars they drive up with, and you can tell a lot about the care and concern they may likely bring to a new job.”

Clay was a vice president of personnel and was actively involved in the interviewing process for hiring managers.

“I had one candidate who dressed sharp, looked right, and spoke well,” he continued. “I was ready to put him at the top of the list. After the interview I walked with him out to the parking lot and watched what car he got into. It was a late-model sedan, but it was speckled with bird crap, covered in dust, and the back seat was covered with fast-food wrappers. And on his bumper was a legalize cocaine sticker. Within seconds, he didn’t just drop to the bottom of the list, he dropped off.”

Clay went on to give a number of other examples of how the condition of the candidate’s vehicle raised or lowered his position on the hiring list.

My favorite story of his was the individual who, immediately after his interview, had been placed in the “middle of the pack” by Clay as a potential manager. His resume was good and he interviewed well enough. He had been out of work for about six months, but did not sound desperate. Clay described his clothes as old-ish but noticeably clean. His white shirt was freshly dry-cleaned and starched, and gave his general appearance a very sharp look, despite the age of his suit. His shoes were clean and polished. He gave a good enough first impression but nothing stellar.

Then they walked out to the parking lot.

“He got into a 15-year-old Ford,” Clay said. “It was cleaner and shinier than my two-year-old Lex. I stopped him before he drove off and asked where he had his car serviced. He told me he detailed it himself, and in that instant he rose to the top of my list.”

Clay ended up hiring him and, as it turns out, was one of his best hires ever.

Attention to detail. You never know what someone else is noticing, or how it can effect your life. Whether it’s a job interview, a first date or selling that faithful old clunker, you’re making an impression. Are you sure it’s the right one?

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