What to do if you overdo your first impression

An aspiring software developer was interviewing by telephone with Jerry Masin, then- president of an information technology career school. The man was discussing his portfolio in excruciating detail. Almost overwhelmed by this highly skilled person, Masin whisked him off the telephone. He maintains that the incident illustrates the danger of coaching that leads to becoming “overprepared and overheated.”

Masin, a former recruiter and human resources manager, is now president of CompasScale LLC in Woodbridge Township, N.J., a management and investment consultancy.

“The next day,” he says, “a very apologetic email was waiting in my inbox. The man explained that he was ‘passionate about (his) work but nervous about not getting a job.’ Sure enough, we hired him.”


That job seeker addressed his problem quickly and effectively. However, email isn’t your only option, even when your personality gets in the way.

Instead of torturing yourself with self-doubt and imaginings about how the other person might feel about you, follow the advice of Jim Veilleux, founder and owner of VirtualLogger LLC in Charlotte, N.C. He offers a systematic approach for addressing this problem.

First, Veilleux advises, identify what you did. You might have made too many calls to the employer, used hyperbole about yourself or seemed desperate, he says. Perhaps you mistreated the gatekeeper.

After you’ve analyzed your behavior, shift to the situation.

“Is the employer even aware you were excessive?” he asks. “Were there verbal clues, such as hesitancy and desire to get off the phone? Don’t raise a red flag unless you have to.”

If you must, “convey the self-awareness to know you might have gone overboard without making too big a deal about it and keep focusing on your qualifications,” Veilleux points out. “Bringing too much attention to your mistakes is a distraction,” however you apologize.

“Be brief and turn it into a selling point,” he adds. “You were so enthusiastic about the job that you might have gone overboard.”

How did you treat the gatekeeper? Veilleux believes many employers don’t hear about negative incidents from their staff. Be that as it may, apologize to the person directly. If you want to tell the employer, too, he recommends saying something like this: “I might have been a bit of a pest with your secretary and hope you understand I’m very enthusiastic about the position.”

Masin also suggests perhaps sending the employer a letter, which, unless hand-delivered, might not arrive in time for you to be considered. Still, today’s flooded inboxes might prompt you to make the extra effort. You have as much control over what you say in hard copy as you do in email. Use it as an opportunity to highlight critical points, not just apologize.

“A polished apology for passionate and energetic behavior that came across as aggressive,” as Masin says, allows you to present yourself anew and solidify a better impression.

If your only recourse is another telephone call or an interview, script what you have to say. As you practice, remind yourself that “when the person is so earnest, strength becomes a weakness,” Masin says. Meanwhile, because you’ll have done what you can, get on with your life.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at culp@workwise.net. © 2013 Passage Media.