It is widely acknowledged that it takes 7 seconds, on average, to make a first impression. Understanding the psychology of how first impressions are formed can help you to make a positive impact in any new situation.
Nicki Tkachenko, personal stylist and image consultant, agrees that we only have that short window of time to make a first impression. First we notice a person’s outfit and appearance, then we consider their body language before we make a decision about the person we are meeting. We then use the limited information obtained in those few short moments, to make assumptions about the person we have met – about their life, what they are like as a person and what they are interested in, in order to create an impression filter. Why is this important? Because any additional information learnt after those first 7 seconds is filtered through the impression we first formed.
We also have sub-conscious filters, developed from our personal experience. For instance, you may have been pushed over at school by a boy with red hair so you automatically feel biased against red-headed individuals. Or perhaps you have worked with a tall person who made you feel intimidated, immediately putting you on your guard when faced with someone significantly taller than you.
While it may appear superficial to focus on appearance, humans are primarily visual creatures. We are neurologically wired to use sight, supported by our other senses, to create meaning of the world around us. Physical characteristics such as height, build and facial features are generally things we cannot change. You can however help a person create a positive first impression of you by taking care with your appearance and attitude. Your working wardrobe and demeanour should not be an afterthought, but a carefully considered part of your preparation each day.
Certain physical states will create a negative first impression before you have even said a word. Unpolished shoes, wrinkled or ill-fitting clothes tell an interviewer that you are disorganised and don’t care. Heavy fragrance or a bad attitude can also be off-putting and can give the impression that you aren’t considerate of people around you. These are all factors within your control. Ask yourself – are you making the right impact or are you underselling yourself?
After creating an initial impression of you, a hiring manager will use the filters they have created to determine whether:
- You are likely to fit in with the team and organisation’s culture
- You are a professional that they would be proud to have in their business
- You are respectful of yourself and others
- You are forward-thinking or dated in your views
- You are dressed in a way that will distract others in the office
- You are someone that they would enjoy working with
Although we can’t control the personal filters of the people we are meeting, there are many factors within our control. Here are 4 easy ways to ensure you start your interview or meeting on a positive note:
- SMILE – the power of a smile should never be underestimated
- Be punctual
- Dress with care and in a way that makes you feel confident
- Make eye contact and greet your interviewer with a firm handshake
The Sydney accounting market is quite small and it is feasible that people will cross your path more than once in your career. You only have one chance to make a first impression and it is important to make it count. Whether you are attending a first interview or meeting a prospective client, stop for a moment and consider – what impression are you making?
For other tips and advice relating to securing your dream job, take a look at our Job Seeker Toolkit.
eBook. Face to Face: Toward a Sociological Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour. Written by Jonathon H. Turner