It takes less than 30 seconds for someone to form a first impression when they meet you.
They will evaluate you on how you present yourself through your remarks, body language, and demeanor, and this judgment is nearly impossible to reverse. In many situations, such as a job interview, the first impression makes all the difference.
How can you influence that first meeting? Here are some tips.
Plan to arrive at the front door of the client or employer early. Plan for traffic jams or taking a wrong turn. Don’t be late. Even a good excuse, such as a child’s illness, is not important to the interviewer and will put you in a negative light. If you arrive early, you demonstrate to the interviewer or client that you value his or her time and that you are taking your meeting very seriously.
Present With a Calm Demeanor
Arrive early to meetings in order to have time to organize your thoughts and put yourself at ease. Nothing gives a poorer impression than someone who presents as hectic, nervous, or flustered. Many people think that demonstrating high adrenaline is good. It is, but too much can come across as stressed out and even disorganized. More importantly, these actions make the other person uncomfortable, maybe even on edge, which does not foster a good first impression.
There are wonderful breathing techniques that, with practice, allow you to “summon” a calm state in two or three minutes. By appearing calm, people will perceive you as more confident and in control, which is key to a good first impression.
Be Aware of Your Body Language
Body language tells someone a lot about your mood and confidence level. A good, straight posture conveys confidence and that you’re worthy of attention, while slouching conveys an impression of defeat. Stand tall and pull your shoulder blades back and towards one another. Leaning in to the other person suggests that you are interested and attentive. Don’t forget to make eye contact, smile, and greet your hosts with a firm handshake. By using your body language to project confidence and self-assurance, you convey that you are a person others will gravitate toward.
Say Something Unique
Put yourself in the place of the interviewer, client, or networker who interacts with hundreds of people each week. They may hear the same pitch and small talk every day. Many start to tune out when they feel they have “heard this before.” Try to say something they haven’t heard before that is relevant and can help them in some way.
Research a person’s or company’s background before every networking event, job interview, or client interaction. The more you understand your interviewer, the better the solution you can suggest. Saying something unique will convey that you are a seasoned leader, which will create a memorable and lasting first impression.
How you leave your first interaction is very important. Take advantage of the in-person time but don’t speak too much. Before leaving, make sure the client or job interviewer knows how you could potentially be the solution to their problems. They should feel that you understand them. Briefly summarize the meeting and suggest clear next steps before leaving. Be courteous and mindful of people’s time. It is vital to follow through on any action items you committed to.
You have very little time to make a good first impression and it’s impossible to reverse it. So it’s worth giving each new encounter a little extra thought and preparation. By consistently employing these techniques, you can make every first impression not just good but great.
By Julia McNamara – Julia McNamara ’96 is the founder and CEO of the Global Executive, a learning and development firm that teaches executives and entrepreneurs how to acquire more business through superior communication skills, self awareness, and executive presence.
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