First impressions matter — sometimes

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to make first impressions in my life because I’ve had so many job interviews. I’m just about an expert in the field.

As they say, first impressions make lasting impressions, and yet job experts say it only takes a few seconds for these impressions to form. These first impressions are then extremely difficult, although not impossible, to change.

Imagine the impression I made when I walked into a job interview very pregnant. Through a small oversight on my part, I had failed to mention this to the newspaper editor who had conducted a preliminary telephone interview with me the week before.

It was the spring of 1990 and I had a job interview with Scot Stinnett, then managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. I had intentionally left out this small detail about having a baby in just a few months. He needed a new Limelight editor and I needed a job close to home before my package arrived.

After much thought, I decided this small detail might hurt my chances of getting an interview. I just wanted to get my foot, and my baby, in the door. When it came interview time, however, I could not hide this minor oversight. Needless to say, the interview took a different direction than what he intended.

I became upset because he started focusing his questions on who was going to take care of my baby while I worked and so I asked him why he wasn’t asking me more about my qualifications. Given this minor oversight on my part, I wasn’t really in a position to be upset.

As luck, fate or “It’s not what you know but who you know” circumstances would have it, I ended up getting the job. Scot called me the next week and offered me the job, telling me to stay in contact with him, letting him know when I had the baby and when I could start work.

Before hanging up the phone though, he said, “I didn’t know Katie was your mom!”
My mom was the community development secretary at City Hall, making her perhaps a good news source. Given this, I don’t think I was hired by first impressions, although I would have to say I did make a rather “big” impression.

I was hired at the PNT during my first year out of college, a rocky, whirlwind of a year in which I had worked at three different jobs in two different states and moved five different times.

Before I started working at the PNT, I was a reporter for the Hobbs Daily News-Sun in Hobbs. When I interviewed at the News-Sun, I knew things were going to go good as soon as then Lifestyles Editor Anna Nixon, now Anna Foster, recognized the name of my mom. “I remember Katie Salazar,” Anna said, pronouncing my mother’s maiden name with a twangy, bit of a Texas or Louisiana accent.

So I got that job with the mom connection not hurting one bit.

When I got hired as an arts and entertainment reporter for the Abilene Reporter-News in Texas, in 2000, the story differed in how first impressions mattered, but not necessarily mine. During my first day on the job, the reporters treated me to a welcome onboard lunch at which time I was informed that the job candidates had been limited to myself and a character they laughed about and called “The Crazy Hat Lady.”

So once again, I had to question whether my first impression had really made an impression. I remember I had been so nervous when I met with the Lifestyles Editor Carol Dromgoole at a restaurant that I had called her by the wrong name when we shook hands. But obviously, it was The Crazy Hat Lady who had made the lasting impression.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at:
helena_rodriguez@link.freedom.com