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Many people think they know how to make a great first impression, but still don't quite manage to wow recruiters at job fairs, networking events, and other major job venues. The reason why these people never quite get the job they deserve is due to a bad first impression.
Their first impressions fall flat, even with their most winning smile and quippy words. These people often wonder what's wrong with them, or why they never quite seem to get picked for the positions they want.
The fact is that you only have about three seconds to make your first impression, so make sure that it's one to remember in the best way possible. Here's how to make a great first impression with the right people.
First, master your market's look.
It seems like every article on how to make a great first impression talks about looks first, and there's reason for that. Looks matter. In fact, if you don't look the part, then you will not get the part - at all.
If you want to get people's attention, make yourself look like the kind of worker they'd expect to see. Matching the typical industry look is something that is crucial, simply because it shows that you pick up on the subtle nuances of corporate (or non-corporate) culture.
Every industry has a different look to it. Fashion and media startups tend to value all-black ensembles with a slight twist in style. Artisan craft groups tend to go for workhouse-appropriate wear with a classier edge to it. IT groups tend to fare well with khaki pants and a pressed shirt. You get the idea.
For a more generic look, a suit works well - as does anything that's classically expected to be "business casual." The more elegant you appear to be, the better off you'll be. When in doubt, it's better to err on the side of sophisticated.
So, how important is this in terms of a first impression?
If you're a stockbroker that's dressed in sloppy clothing, there's no way that they would believe you to be competent. The reason why is because it shows that you're willfully ignorant of the social clues that would come with this.
Additionally, you may want to start working out if you're interviewing for jobs. Studies have shown that people with lower BMIs tend to make a better impression than those who are overweight. So, this alone can help you develop a good impression into a great impression.
Next, take time to learn body language before you approach anyone or choose to go somewhere you can be approached.
Another thing you'll notice about most guides that tell you how to make a great first impression is the sheer amount of body language tips they give you. There's good reason for this, too.
Whether we like it or not, the majority of what we say isn't verbal - it's by the gestures we make. If you're saying the right things verbally, and the wrong things physically, then you might come off as fake, creepy, or otherwise weird.
Conflicting body language can be a major issue that causes a dissonance. That dissonance may make people back away from you - or just choose a candidate who gave a better first impression over you.
Your best chance at making the best body language moves is to study up on confidence posturing, and just pretend to be confident if you're not. Maintaining eye contact, smiling, laughing, and a relaxed-but-straight spine can make a huge difference in how people see you.
A word of advice - if you're regularly accused of having a scowl on your face, fake a smile for a little bit. It may feel a bit forced, but the fact is that it can make a huge difference.
If you aren't sure how you look when you're posturing yourself, take a look at yourself in the mirror. Do you think you look relaxed? If not, work on looking mellow and chill.
If you're still tense, chew some gum. Studies have shown that chewing gum actually acts as a stress reliever and also can help you look more relaxed. Above all, remember that this is just a blip in the grand scheme of things. If you don't do well, it won't matter because you'll have other opportunities to do so.
Learning what to say also matters, and as does etiquette.
You might not know this, but there are a ton of companies out there that send high ranking employees to etiquette schools. The reason why is because these schools teach people how to be polite, eat without making a mess, and also just be attractive on a professional and personal level.
Things like arriving slightly early to meetings time after time matter, as do things like holding doors for subordinates, offering help when it's needed, and more. It shows that you are socially aware, and it also makes the person meeting you feel like they are a priority.
You also can't really know how to make a great first impression without tact.
Another thing that many guides go at length to discuss is the art of tact. You can say the exact same idea many different ways, and which way you just to say it will elicit a different reaction. For example, take the following conversation between a guy named Gary and a guy named Robert:
Gary: I love Harry Potter movies, man.
Robert: Oh, I hate them. But, good for you though.
In this scenario, Robert came off as a total jerk. Gary probably was trying to be nice, but will back away from Robert because of the fact that it sounded like he was making a personal attack towards Gary. Now, let's take the next scenario, between Alstair and Luke:
Alstair: I love Harry Potter movies, man.
Luke: I'm not such a fan, but I feel like it's one of those movie series that you need to be in a certain mindset to really adore. Maybe I'm seeing it wrong?
In this scenario, Luke also said that he didn't like Harry Potter movies - but he did it tactfully. This didn't come off as an attack to Alstair. So, chances are that Alstair will still want to engage with Luke.
See the difference?
One thing that most guides won't tell you is that you also need to get yourself in the right headspace to make a great first impression.
Almost every single guide on how to make a great first impression focuses on body languages, appearances, and maybe a bit of etiquette. That advice is great and useful. However, that's really only superficial in nature. You can make a good impression with that, but for very trained eyes in HR, it won't be enough.
After all, anyone can act good for a set amount of time. It takes someone special to make a great impression that comes off as genuine. The big difference is in how you present yourself via your attitude.
Too often, people let their personal drama, hangups, and insecurities get the better of them when they're trying to be that "first impression person" guides usually tell them to be. Here's the thing though - that person isn't really you.
If you want to make the best first impression you can make, take time to cultivate a positive attitude. Work to get confident in yourself by telling yourself that you've got what it takes to work. If something is making you insecure, work to remove that issue from your life.
Stop assuming people are out to hurt you, that they are going to hate you, or that you need to please people in order to get them to want to be around you. Putting people, even employers, on a pedestal is a surefire way to ensure that they'll look down on you.
You can read up on how to make a great first impression all you want, but if you don't actually work to cultivate a healthy attitude, it will eventually show through once you get the job - and things will go downhill.