A Blog series by Elise Misse

Blog #9

Earn a Slice of the PIE – Making a Great Impression

There’s an old saying that claims we only get one chance to make a first impression. In the 21st Century, this is even more important. An increase in the availability of further and higher education has opened doors to more opportunities for some. While this is admirable, it has also created more competition for a select handful of roles in the workplace.

Simply being invited to attend an interview in the current business climate can be seen as a small victory. The work is far from complete at this stage, though. Being able to present a positive representation during a face-to-face meeting is every bit as critical as it is challenging. Conquering nerves, getting your point across and making it clear that you are the best possible candidate for a role can sometimes feel like a mountain to climb. Even if you clear this particular hurdle, you need to maintain the image that you have presented.

All the same, your first impression remains prevalent in how you come across. Even if you warm up throughout the course of a meeting and find your stride, a less-than-stellar initial impression places you at an immediate handicap. One way to ensure that you make your mark is to build your personal brand, or PIE. You’ll find more about this on a LEAD Network webinar, but I’d like to take the time to discuss the concept here.

PIE stands for Performance, Image and Exposure. These are the three points of an essential triangle, but each element is equally important. Let’s break them down a little.

Performance encompasses:

  • The contribution that you can make to a business
  • The utilisation – and development – of your personal skills
  • Any development opportunities that may arise
  • The results of these opportunities

Image is often overlooked – arguably erroneously. Image revolves around:

  • Your personal brand positioning
  • The impression that you leave, which must be authentic and credible
  • Your personal values and principles

This diagram offers a visual summary of the PIE concept.

This ties in with your exposure, which revolves around the visibility of your work – to both internal or external figures – and the legacy that you may leave. Always be aware of what your personal brand says about you. A further LEAD Network webinar discusses this subject in great detail. The truth is, whether you know it or not, you do have a personal brand, and this acts as your reputation.

Every time somebody searches your name online, your social media presence will be easily located. This is your personal brand – how you are perceived. This makes it essential that you retain consistency across every platform. This, in turn, must also match your offline brand. This will ensure that you are perceived in an appropriate manner in the workplace. Your personal brand is your value proposition. If you’re looking for a promotion, salary increase of new opportunity, your personal brand must be one of authenticity and reliability. Embed your personal brand within your own, core values.

Performance is obviously the first point that should be addressed. Excellent performance is a basic expectation of any employee, especially once ascent of the corporate ladder begins. You’ll need to be able to provide evidence that you perform above and beyond the level expected of you.
That doesn’t just mean completing your tasks and maintaining the status quo, keeping things ticking over without disaster. High quality performance involves identifying needs of a business that may not yet have been discovered, rectifying these with consistency. In a nutshell, growth – both as an individual and as an employee – are critical to performance.

This is the difference between being a fine and worthy employee – a safe pair of hands, so to speak – and a truly great asset to a business. Good employees do not rock the boat, ensure that core expectations are met, and keep a department running as smoothly as a well-oiled Swiss watch. That is admirable, but it is not necessarily what will get you noticed.

Think about a band for a moment. Good employees are the equivalent of a drummer, or a bass guitarist. They are essential to the sound of the band, keeping rhythm and providing flamboyant singers and guitar players to shine. Ultimately, though, it’s those front-and-centre musicians that often linger in the memory. The same applies to employees in the workplace. If you’re hoping to be remembered and stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to show that you’re unique.

Moving onto image. This is the mental projection provided to those who interact with you. There is a degree of soul-searching required here, as you’ll need to take stock of your personal beliefs and values. You then need to assess how these tally up with those of an organisation that you’re hoping to work with, or are presently employed by.

When you leave the room, what do you want people to be saying about you? This is your image, which you must ensure is communicated during an interview. Naturally, this should also be tailored for the role that you’re interviewing for. If the business is in a state of flux, make it clear that you are capable of addressing the need for change. If the position involves line managing a team of staff, ensure that your leadership qualities shine through.

Leadership is a big part of image. There is a big difference between accepting change without complaint and leading the charge to make improvements. The image that you should seek to project is that of a forward-thinker, somebody that is already three moves ahead on the business chessboard.

A reputation as being reliable and flexible, able to adapt to an ever-changing landscape, is great. You’ll go far with that image – but only so far. To truly excel, you’ll need to present yourself as somebody that can identify and seek out these changes, constructing plans for how to manage adjustments and make the most of the opportunities these provide.
Finally, consider exposure. While this is more frequently considered when a role is secured and work has begun, it is just as important at an interview stage. All too often, we forget that a job interview is a two-way street.

Yes, we need to ensure that a potential employer sees the value that we can bring to their business. However, you must also consider what you will receive from this relationship. Will your work and ingenuity be recognised? Will this opportunity help you get where you need to be, or will you be left treading water? The dynamic that you’ll experience with your interviewer will shine some light on these questions. Pay attention to how you are treated, and how you are communicated with.

Ultimately, the key to a successful good impression is research. Understand all that you can about the business that you are seeking to enter.

An interview is a great opportunity to discuss your exposure, demonstrating a network of contacts and associates that you have amassed over time. Show that you have learned from your past experiences and collaborations, and that you expect the same in the future.

A good employer will seek collaborative spirit over individuals that prefer to work in isolation. If that is not the case, question whether this is the right role for you. After all, if you are not expected to work alongside senior figures within a business, how can you possibly hope to forge a meaningful relationship with them?

PIE is critical to making the right impression in an interview setting, as well in the workplace. After all, while making a good first impression is important, retaining that image is equally critical. Obviously there are other considerations, but these are well worn. Punctuality, appropriate attire and body language are all critical. In addition, however, always consider the cultural norms of the business that you are interviewing with. Geography will play a major role in this.

Take timekeeping as an example. It is always tempting to arrive for an interview in plenty of time. In this setting, it’s surely better to be an hour early than three minutes late, right? This applies to virtual interviews too, which is an increasing concern in a post-COVID world. Signing in a little earlier ensures that lighting, microphone checks and visual footage is all accurate. It’s certainly better to have this wrapped up before your interviewers join the call, rather than fumbling through the opening five minutes of a meeting.

In reality though, some cultures consider arriving for a meeting too early to be unprofessional. A German workplace, for example, will expect you to arrive for your interview at the allocated time. Waiting in reception for thirty minutes will be seen as a distraction to existing employees and raise questions as to your professionalism.

Be mindful of the core differences between western and eastern businesses, too. Handshakes in the business world may well be a thing of the past, so that is less of a concern. Appropriate body language remains essential, however.

Many of us are told that unstinting eye contact is the key to projecting a confident and positive image. This is not the case in China, though, where consistent eye contact is considered rude. Equally, many eastern cultures consider speaking softly to be a positive trait, conveying a quiet confidence and authority. In the west, we may be expected to demonstrate our self-assurance by enunciating loudly and clearly.

Ultimately, the key to a successful good impression is research. Understand all that you can about the business that you are seeking to enter, and the individuals that will meet with you. Once this is complete, build on discussing your performance, image and exposure. Treating this process with the importance and respect that it deserves will ensure that you receive this reverence in return. All that is left is to retain the positive impression that you have created.

About LEAD Network Europe

The LEAD Network Europe is a non-profit and volunteer-led organisation whose mission is to attract, retain, and advance women in the consumer products and retail sector in Europe through education, leadership, and business development. The LEAD Network is run by and for its members, women and men, and we value every individual for their unique perspective. With a primary focus on promoting gender equality the organisation strives for the advancement of women of every race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, educational background, national origin, religion, physical ability and lifestyle. Its vision is of a fair, diverse and vibrant industry where everyone can thrive. A diverse workforce where both men and women are enabled to contribute their full potential and lead their organisations to the next level of value creation. LEAD Network accounts for 18,000+ members – both women and men – from 81 countries.

For more information, please visit www.lead-eu.net