A lot of factors go into making a good first impression. Most people spend a lot of time the night before an important interview or meeting rehearsing what they’re going to say, while neglecting to think about other factors. How you actually present yourself can be far more important than the words coming out of your mouth. Giving off a bad first impression or neglecting some key areas that people often judge immediately can set you up for failure. Even if you’re saying all the right things when you speak, your body language can ruin the message (or enhance the message if you follow the tips below). Making a good first impression is about ensuring that a number of small, subtle indicators are optimized to reinforce your message and not draw attention away from what you’re saying.
These tips for how to make a good first impression aren’t only useful for a job interview. Somebody you meet at a networking event could end up thinking of you for an open position within their company in the future if you make a good enough impression. There’s never an excuse for making a bad first impression. These tips make it easy…
Here are 5 key tips that should simplify the art of making a good first impression:
- Outfit. What you wear says a lot about you. Clothing is an important area to consider if you want to make a good first impression. If in doubt, overdress slightly. If a meeting is business casual, you don’t need to wear a necktie, but you don’t want to be the one person wearing khakis when everyone else has dress pants. If a gathering is casual, you still might consider wearing dress shoes with a nice pair of jeans or khakis. Always look to be on the side of slightly overdressed, without showing off or overdoing it. Wear clothes that fit, are free of holes, rips, and signs of regular wear and tear. If a piece of clothing looks like it’s been worn 600 times over the past three years, you should probably save it for the weekend.
- Eye contact. This takes practice, but you should look people in the eye when speaking to them. It’s easy to maintain eye contact when listening, but pay attention next time you talk and you’ll often notice your eyes drifting toward the ground or to the left or right. If speaking to a group, glance around the room making eye contact with multiple people. When speaking to one person, focus on maintaining eye contact when you talk. This will give yourself an aura of confidence and will strengthen the point you’re trying to make. If you can’t maintain eye contact, it’s going to be almost impossible to make a good first impression. Better start practicing!
- Handshake. This is a classic topic of discussion, but still very important when it comes to making a good first impression. Not too hard, not too soft, that’s what we’re looking for here. Don’t go in there trying to prove that you’re the strongest person in the universe, just give a nice firm handshake for approximately two seconds and then let go. Maintain eye contact during the handshake. Make sure your fingernails are trimmed and neat. I’m not covering hygiene in this article because I figured it goes without saying.
- Speech. How you talk is often just as important as what you’re saying. Talk slowly and confidently. Don’t race through your words. Don’t let a nerve-racking situation force you to rush through what you want to say. Take a deep breath and take your time to make sure the words come out how you want them to. There’s nothing wrong with pausing and thinking for a few seconds before speaking, especially when responding to a question. The alternative- speaking before you know what you’re going to say, is often far riskier. Make sure your tone of speech is calm and confident.
- Posture. Sit or stand up straight to exhibit confidence and calmness. Keep your head high; don’t bend your neck down or look at the ground, especially when speaking. Don’t cross or fold your arms- sit in an open and confident position at all times. Don’t rest your head on your hand, and avoid touching your face or hair in general. This type of fidgeting gives off a sense of insecurity or nervousness.