Job Search Tip of the Week #22 (2017)


6 Steps to the Perfect First Impression

The Science behind Snap Judgments

“You’ll never get a second chance to make a great first impression.”

Cliché? Most definitely. Wrong? Absolutely not.

We’re all practitioners of physiognomy, the art of determining personality from physicality. Research suggests that we form opinions of others within seconds (perhaps even in just a fraction of one), and any further interaction serves to justify them – which often proves to be as accurate as those reached over longer periods of time.

In other words: We make up our minds about someone in a hurry, and what’s more, we’re surprisingly good at it. So the last thing you want to do is to put yourself in a situation where you give someone the wrong idea!

Fortunately, learning more about the science behind first impressions can help you make the perfect one at your next interview or networking event. Check out these 6 tips on how to make the perfect first impression, which we’ve adapted from Carolyn Gregoire’s “How to Make the Perfect First Impression (According to Science)”:

  1. Talk smoothly to me: One recent study found that people start forming impressions of someone’s personality (on dimensions such as trustworthiness, aggressiveness, confidence, dominance, and warmth) the moment they start speaking. Considering your first interaction with an interviewer would most likely be over the phone, it’s important to develop a great speaking voice. Check out these tips on how to improve your vocal attractiveness!
  2. Come see me: A series of studies have found that the environment in which an impression is formed makes a difference. Using passive means of interaction (e.g., online, video) garnered substantially more negative first impressions than active methods (e.g., in person), although the impressions made were similarly accurate in judging personality on dimensions such as extraversion and likeability. So put yourself in the best light, and push for – and take advantage of – meet-and-greet opportunities and on-site interviews. Just remember to never be late, or show up too early!
  3. Dress to impress: Physical appearance has been shown to influence others’ perceptions of your character. Check out this cheat sheet on proper interview attire and personal grooming. And while you’re at it, see how the color of your clothing can also affect your first impression!
  4. Shake it (like a Polaroid picture): Research has shown handshake quality is positively correlated with interview ratings. A weak handshake is often interpreted as passivity, timidity, or duplicity – traits that don’t bode well in the workplace – so it’s important to have a firm grip. For a funny what-not-to-do, check out this infographic which illustrates the 9 types of bad handshakes. Want to know more about what your handshake says about you? Learn more about the art of the handshake here.
  5. Don’t underestimate the importance of body language: Research has shown that much of our impression of someone can be attributed to someone’s facial expressions, body language, and overall posture. Do you know how your body’s talkin’? Decode the messages you’re sending here.
  6. Listen. According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, judgments of trustworthiness and competence account for 80 to 90 percent of someone’s overall first impression of you, meaning it’s important to express warmth and establish a sense of trust. To accomplish this, Cuddy suggests making small talk, letting the other person speak first, asking them questions about themselves, and paraphrasing what’s already been discussed.

Remember: We can’t help but to judge books by their covers. Practice making your first impression as perfect as can be so you don’t end your interview before it even begins! (And don’t forget that your résumé is often the first impression you make on a hiring organization, so make sure it looks good.)

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