First Impressions – II

In my last post, I wrote about how first impressions are formed and how it takes just seven seconds for those impressions to be formed. They then remain ingrained in our mind for a very long time.

Not all first impressions are right though. We could go horribly wrong in our judgement about the other person basis our first impression. That is because what we think of them when we first set eyes on them is born out of our own emotional state. And that is linked with our own set of bias, perceptions, and experiences. This can therefore limit us in our own thinking process. That could then lead to a lot of misleading observations.

Professor Alex Todorov, from Princeton University in New Jersey, and author of the book – ‘Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions’ says first impressions can be horribly wrong and not tell the truth. Further, he continues, “The only way to tell whether two people will really like each other – they have to talk. People don’t make good predictions for compatibility without talking.”

But then, we often do not get the opportunity to talk. Even if we do, it is always past those critical seven seconds! How do we then ensure we leave behind the picture or impression we want the others to see? How can we be authentic and come across as real as we are?

Creating the best of first impressions

Professionally, the stakes are very high when it comes to first impressions. The first impression your manager has of you. Your first impression of the company you wish to join and gave an interview for. The impression you leave behind with your team the first time you meet them…All these are important situations as they have the power to define your relationships with your key stakeholders down the line and also your future job opportunities.

So, how can you ensure that you leave behind a positive and lasting first impression?

  1. Being on time

Believe it or not, punctuality/being on time tops the list here!

Imagine you are being called for the final round of your dream job interview. The prospective company arranges for your travel from your residence to their office. You are all set to leave on time. But the vehicle and driver are nowhere around. You wait. You know you will be late for your interview. This situation is not of your making. It is out of your control. Before you even realise, your mind has already made up the impression that this organisation does not value time nor have respect for other people’s time. And in a split second perhaps you make the decision to not proceed. The consequences of that impression and decision can make or break your life.

  1. Dress appropriately

How you dress for your first meeting/interview has the power to form the right impressions. By tailoring your clothes to the type of job you are hoping to do, you will be setting the right tone. You need to find the perfect balance between comfort and professionalism.

  1. Go prepared

Nothing is more jarring than an unprepared candidate for a job interview. Or that unprepared speaker during a panel discussion. Work on your dialogue delivery and your tone of voice. Practice and prepare. List down the common/probable questions that will come your way and prepare your responses.

  1. Do the background research

Do you know who will be interviewing you? If so, find out more about them. Do a good background research of your hiring/reporting manager. If organisation culture scores high for you, network and find people who work/have worked in that organisation and reach out to them for insights. Gather feedback.

Finally, nothing works better than confidence! Be yourself and play to your strengths!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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