Sobering Thoughts on First Impressions

Could you lose out on a new job because of an emoticon? Would a potential romantic interest not be interested in you because of your writing errors? It happens–but I hope it doesn’t happen to you.

This week two women told me about rejecting others because of bad first impressions of the other person’s writing.

First, a senior human resources (HR) professional told me she did not invite a job candidate back for a second interview because of the person’s emailed thank you note: it included an animated emoticon. With that emoticon as evidence, the HR professional decided the candidate did not have the good professional judgment the job required. Note: Before receiving the emailed thank you, she had planned to invite the applicant back.

Second, a friend who is using to meet others told me that she does not respond to a man who makes obvious errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Why not? In her words, “I don’t think we would have that much in common.”

Although most people (not even me!) do not fall in love┬ábecause of┬ásemicolons and correct verb forms, we do form an impression of others based on how they “look” in writing. My friend determined that a man who did not write correctly would not share her love of ideas and the arts. The HR professional decided that someone who would include an animated smiley face in a thank you letter for a job interview would not make wise decisions on the job.

If you are thinking these two women may have ruled out excellent candidates, I grant that possibility. But from what I know of both women, I believe the candidates lost out on excellent opportunities because of their errors.

What is your view?