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What Really Matters In Making a Good First Impression

Mar 09 , 2020

Job candidate shaking hands with an interviewer.

The conventional wisdom about good first impressions is that they are largely based on appearances. This is why you're supposed to wear a suit to an interview for even the most basic entry-level position - even in a workplace where everyone is wearing jeans and t-shirts to work every day.

There's no denying that appearances are essential in making a first impression, and by all means wear that suit to the interview (yes, ladies also need to wear the equivalent of a suit) unless you are specifically told not to. But there are some things beyond what you wear that contribute to a first impression, and those things are just as important to get right as the outfit. 

Body Language Matters

When you open your mouth to say hello or answer an interview question, your body can speak up to nine times louder than your vocal cords. A mere 20-minute interview can contain up to 700 nonverbal signals, which is probably more than the number of words you will say during that time.

Here are some of the nonverbal signals you want to send when you first meet someone, and how to get there even when you aren't sure exactly how you come across to others.

Posture. It isn't necessary to stand or sit ramrod straight, but don't slump over either. Bad posture may make people think you don't respect or take care of yourself, or that you're not confident in your abilities.

Eye contact. Again, you don't want to stare someone down, but you also don't want to avoid making eye contact when you're trying to make an essential point about yourself. That negates your message and can make someone question whether you really believe what you're saying to them. 

Job candidate shaking hands with an interviewer.

Facial expression. It sends the wrong message when your face looks stressed, so practice relaxing your face and have someone else who can be objective tell you when you're getting it right. Smiling is good, too, but you can overdo that along with everything else. Definitely don't frown, though.

Tone. You want to try for a conversational tone, one that you would use with a friend in an everyday situation. If your tone encourages the interviewer to think that you are a friendly person who is comfortable in social situations, they are more likely to view you favorably. 

Energy. Without overwhelming the interviewer, it's important to show enthusiasm for what is discussed and for the potential job at hand. Lethargy will be perceived as a lack of interest, and if you're not interested before you even get the job, the interviewer figures, you certainly won't have the right level of interest to actually do it if you're hired. 

Be Yourself. There is a lot to be said for injecting as much of your authentic personality into an interview situation as is possible. To start, you truly don't want to take a job where you have to hide your personality or what makes you, you. Further, authenticity is attractive to most people and can be an advantage over others who are just bland professionally. Employers prefer to hire a real person, and giving at least a glimpse of that in the interview will be to your benefit.

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