Making a good first impression

MARSHALL – The screening process starts the minute you walk into the potential employer’s waiting room – if you smile and engage someone in conversation or just acknowledge them, that’s a plus, said area health care provider human resource professionals.

About 25 students in Adult Basic Education Southwest Minnesota’s certified nursing assistant training classes got an inside look at the mysterious and often nerve-wracking world of the job interview.

Lois Schmidt, the Bremer Bank non-profit resource specialist, moderated a health care employer forum Thursday at the Lyon County Government Center in which health care students got to learn some inside tips of what to expect in the interview process. The panelists were Jason Swanson, the executive director at Prairie View Healthcare Center in Tracy; Ann Full, the human resources director at Good Samaritan Society in Pipestone; and Eileen Fuhrmann, director of nursing in long-term care for Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.

Actually, the students learned, the interview process starts even before you enter the door, they said. If they call you to set up an appointment and your ringtone music is inappropriate and involves a lot of swearing and/or your phone message is too casual, that shows a lack of professionalism.

In addition, the panelists said, how the prospective employee looks is important.

“Your hair shouldn’t be looking like you just rolled out of bed,” Full said.

“Wear what you would wear if you were going to a nice restaurant,” Swanson said. “If you are wearing an Iron Maiden T-shirt and ripped jeans, I would think, ‘you can’t take care of yourself, why would you be able to take care of anyone else?'”

Swanson said interviewers can tell a lot about a person in a short period of time.

“First impressions are made within 12 to 15 seconds,” he said. “If I see you take your coat off and take out your phone and play ‘Family Feud’ – that assessment starts right away. But if you smile and talk to someone, acknowledge that person, that tells me something.”

Employers are looking for someone who is happy and positive and can share that outlook with the patients.

Another important quality of a good employee is reliability.

“Ninety-five percent of our time is spent on those five percent who don’t show up to work,” Swanson said.

“That is a huge, huge thing,” Full said. “It’s really important to have good attendance.”

Inclement weather isn’t an excuse, said Fuhrmann.

“If the weather report says a storm will start at 2 p.m., you should be in your car at 10 a.m. to make sure you get to work – with your bags packed,” she said. The employee might have to stay with a friend or be put up in a hotel.

The panelists said healthcare is a 24-hour, seven day a week job, and the patients must be the top priority.

“If I had a dime for every employee who said, ‘I don’t want to work over weekends,'” said Full. “You can’t go into healthcare if you don’t want to work weekends and holidays.”