I know you’ve hard the idiom “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, but we know people do it all the time. It’s unfair, and many times untrue, but how you communicate your first impression really can stick with you – maybe even cost you a job.
As a manager, I have interviewed dozens of people for jobs from entry level to high level management. Believe me, first impressions are critical. Over the years, I have been distracted by pink tights, blank stares, and people who talk too much.
The first impression has become so important in final hiring decisions that I added a first impression element. Our receptionist, who greets our candidates, rates her first impression of them. It’s amazing how many candidates don’t pass the first impression test.
Studies say that a first impression is made within the first 7 seconds of your interaction. That’s not much time.
So, what can you do get the most out of your 7 seconds? I came up with my top 7 tips. And, while I use a job interview setting as my example, these tips will work at your next new event, the new person you meet at the coffee house, or even your new in-laws.
1) Be early.
Make sure you are a little early. It shows you are respectful and on top of it. Allow time for the unexpected. I once was late after spilling coffee on my white blouse. Two things I learned – don’t drink coffee when you are wearing a white shirt, ever. And, allow time for the unexpected.
Be pleasant, and show that you are happy to be there. You would be surprised how many cranky faces sit in our lobby, then turn on the charm when they enter the interview room. Be consistent and sincere.
3) Use good eye contact.
Steady eye contact shows you are a good listener, and people are always impressed with a good listener. Just don’t overdo it and stare. That’s creepy.
4) Be other-centered.
Demonstrate that the other person -not you- is important. Listen first and speak when asked something. Then, don’t ramble on. Follow their lead.
5) Use their name.
People love to hear the sound of their name and will immediately find you interesting. You will show that you have been paying attention and think enough of them to use their name. Try using it at least 2 times: “That’s a good observation, Betty”, “Your vacation must have been exciting, Betty.”
6) Appearance counts.
Yes, the pink tights were attractive. And while they were kind of cute with the outfit, it just didn’t work in an interview. Stick with the basics and dress for the job after this job. Kick it up a notch. Show that you can dress professionally and pull it off.
7) Be careful with humor.
If you are a natural, then a quip or two can serve as an icebreaker, but stay away from anything that slightly resembles a sarcastic or derogatory remark. They can backfire. You never know what sensitivities the listener has so don’t push it.
Here’s a bonus tip: these tips aren’t just for making a good impression, they are all excellent general communication tips to help you become a better communicator.
Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home. To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:
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