The Importance of a Positive and Inviting First Impression

Posted by David G Phillips on Aug 9, 2018 4:11:38 PM

As the president of a rapidly growing consulting firm, I can tell you there are lots of people looking for jobs in today’s economy. I cannot begin to tell you how baffled and disappointed I am to see the resumes that come into our office.

People have glaring typographical errors, misspellings (including my name and the name of the firm), and many other terribly basic blunders. You can imagine what we do with these resumes. They go into the recycling bin, where at least some good will come out of them.

Whether with a resume, or your first appearance somewhere, you are going to be judged by the initial impression you create for your audience. It is no different with a non-profit than it is with a business. In fact, many of your constituents are going to judge you by the same standards they learned and use in their own businesses.

Often the manner in which you speak on the phone, or the smile you give and the way you shake a potential donor’s hand can mean the chemistry is there, and the gift is forthcoming. Contrariwise, people do not trust people who present a poor image or project bad vibes. It is important to take great pains to ensure that you are perceived in the most favorable light.

We match talented fundraising professionals with our clients, based upon the organization and their needs. We have rigorous hiring standards, and we put our candidates through an exhaustive series of interviews. Invariably, however, the client has their own battery of tests to run on our consultants. They do not just take our word for it; they want to see for themselves.

Seldom is there ever a lack of faith, but if it is going to happen, it will happen even before they begin working with the consultant. It is based upon first impressions rather than working directly with the fundraising professional. Our clients, with good reason, are very particular about whom they want to partner with on their extraordinary capital campaigns—which are, in many instances—the most important events in the history of their respective organizations.

The truth is, I don’t know of any professional position that consistently allows room for error. Why then would you feel like someone is going to give you a second look if you present them with a resume with typos, weird color printing or an unusual font? If you come to a job interview chewing gum, or dressed for a GQ photo shoot versus a business meeting, you will not find yourself in demand. Take the time to research the organization you hope to work with, and dress for the job you would like to have there. It will make a difference.

Some helpful suggestions to ensure a good first impression:

    • Dress appropriately. Make sure you are impeccably groomed.
    • Stand proud and confident.
    • Speak in a clear, articulate manner, and keep it relatively brief.
    • Be neat with any forms you fill out, and thorough too—better to ask questions than to err.
    • Be thoughtful, kind and considerate to everyone in the office, especially the receptionist (he or she has the keys to the vault).
    • Speak only the truth, and speak with resolve.
    • Write a quick tasteful thank-you note, immediately following the interview.
    • Ask good, probing and intelligent questions (show them that you are bright and that you, too, sweat the details).
    • Mention any helpful experiences or commonalities that are not clearly evident in your resume or vitae.
    • Know the organization, what they do, and how you would like to help them do it better.
    • Take great care with your resume and cover letter. Have friends and family proof and proof again and then have an outside source proof your materials.
    • Be creative and flexible.


And remember: try to have some fun while you are at it!

David G. Phillips is president of Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS).  CDS is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada.  If you have a fundraising question,  please call CDS at  800-761-3833 or send an email to

Topics: capital campaign consulting, capital campaign fundraising, capital campaign planning, Capital Campaigns, Custom Development Solutions, Fundraising Principles, General Articles, Professional Skill Building

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