Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You Know What They Say About First Impressions...

I'd like to first say Thanks! to Tony Karrer for linking back here.

I was reading Tony's eLearning Technology blog yesterday afternoon, and I saw his post about profile photos and how to use them for professional networking. It's a worthwhile topic, and one that is becoming especially important in the Web 2.0 world, where people across the spectrum of industry and professions seek to stay in touch with colleagues and to expand their opportunity nets for jobs, be they present or future.

The core of the topic is how a simple profile photo, or the lack of one, can convey positive or negative connotations to people making hiring decisions, or at the very least those in a position to take you and your opinions and work seriously. In a reply I posted to this topic thread, I agreed that profile photos on sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, or perhaps in a Ning group or on IM chat, can affect peoples' impressions of you as a person. It's the neverending struggle between sides in the Battle of First Impressions. I made a comment that even one's email address can positively or negatively affect one's chances of getting a job or being taken seriously in professional networking contexts.

My anecdote about a non-professional email address that I use and someone's somewhat negative reaction to it added another dimension to the profile photo question. I think one's email address is probably one of the very first dimensions someone in a position to make decisions about you. It's very acceptable to ask for one's email address about as quickly (perhaps even moreso) than you would ask for their phone number. If I'm a professional in a suit and tie seeking a job with a corporation, and I meet a representative of that corporation either in an interview sense or somewhere in public, I need to be cognizant of what a lowly email address can potentially convey. If my email address is heavymetalshredder@rockthehousedown.com, the person in the position of power may have a personal bias that could alleviate me from consideration almost at the outset. No offense to heavy metal shredding guitarists of course, but the email will betray my otherwise professional (suit and tie) attempts to land a good job.

As is always the case with first impressions, the first one has to be at least good - hopefully memorable - for the job to be landed or the opportunity to be grabbed. And we've all heard of the stories of those losing jobs or job opportunities due to a seedy MySpace page or by Tweeting what they think of the company they just landed a job at. What other possible pitfalls are out there that we might not immediately think about in this respect?


  1. This is always tough for me Paul. While you want to make a great impression, there is always the issue of security. For people that have had identity theft and other cyber crimes take place, it is sometimes a hard deal to get them to post their "real" information. I know that "real" and "professional" don't necessarily have to be the same thing but just putting that into the conversation because I did not see it mentioned. This does not even include the ferocious amounts of spam one can incur.

    Robert Kennedy

  2. That's a very valid point Robert, and something I hadn't considered. Several companies I have applied to recently openly asked for my SSN. I have noticed as I talk to more and more employers and recruiting companies, they are requiring an SSN to even be considered, in part so they can perform their background check. While I understand their need for this, and while I've seen no ill effects of giving out that information, it does blur some lines.

    As consumers we didn't realize how prolific banks and other institutions whose services we use asking for our SSN was, until it was too late to roll back, and now it seems everyone north of a fast food business wants your address or some other information to verify you are you. It's a real issue in the 21st century information-based world. I think it will be many years before this is resolved.

    Your view of the security aspect has become for me one that entails a certain level of faith that the information won't be misused. there are so many businesses out there and luckily a good number of jobs available, but taking the time to make sure turning over your information won't result in a stolen identity would take as long or longer than looking for work itself. And even for a well-known company, all it takes is "one bad apple", as it were.