It is no secret that first impressions are important; they have been so since the dawn of our species. As homo sapiens were evolving, a particular defence mechanism was in place which allowed for the incredibly quick judgment of another of the same kind. The ability to judge another was of incredible value; it would initiate the fight or flight response. Is the other trustworthy? Friend, or foe?
The same mechanism is still in place today. In fact, research suggests that we are not only are able to, but automatically judge another person’s personality traits based on a mere 100 millisecond exposure to a photograph of a face (Willis and Todorov 2006). Not only do we make these snap judgments subconsciously, but the first and most confident judgment we make is about the other’s trustworthiness. In addition, the same research found that not only do people generally stick with their first impression of someone, but that this impression is solidified over time (this is not to say, however, that you cannot recover from a bad first impression – you can. We will discuss this next week).
This phenomenon is directly applicable, and extremely prevalent, in the business world. Given the importance of first impressions, one of the aspects of business where this is most important is in an interview setting. A bad first impression when you walk into an interview could potentially have devastating effects. So, how can you give the best first impression?
Tips on Giving a Good First Impression Before an Interview
- Grooming: given that first impressions, evolutionarily speaking, are based on viewing another’s facial features, grooming (including hair, makeup and general skincare) are extremely important. Neat, coifed hair, healthy skin, and a simple, but well put-together makeup application will do wonders. It will signal to the interviewer that you are healthy and care about yourself.
- Dress: just like the importance of first impressions, it is no secret that dress is extremely important in business, and you could say, especially in an interview setting. It accompanies grooming in the overall first impression you give to the interviewer. Make sure to dress appropriately for the job in question (for example, don’t necessarily wear a skirt suit if applying for a job at a gym), and be sure that your clothing fits you properly, and is appropriate. An ill-fitting garment or suit will possibly lead others to think you are lazy, or simply don’t care.
- Presence: your overall presence – how you walk in the room, your posture, your gait, your smile – is like the cherry on top of the first impressions sundae. Presence is not really something tangible; it is a combination of many elements that create your overall aura. Your presence will signal your confidence and authority in the interview setting, two very valuable commodities in an often highly stressful situation.
Don’t let the idea of the significance of first impressions scare you; rather, it should inspire you. Now you know that you can effectively “create” a favorable first impression before you even get to your interview. Just remember how far a smile, a great jacket, and a whole bunch of confidence can take you!
Willis, Janine and Alexander Todorov. “First Impressions: Making Up Your Mind After a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face.” Psychological Science 17.7 (2006): 592-598.