While we are taught not to make quick judgments about the people we meet for the first time, we always want to make a good first impression. Whether it is a date, an interview, or a meeting with a potential client, how we present ourselves matters.
Business magazine Inc. offers seven great tips for making a good first impression — from physical appearance to mental preparedness. A lot of us may know these tips already, but it is a good idea to remind yourself of them before going into meetings with potential new employers or clients.
Tip number two, “Research the Culture”, is one we should always remember, but it sometimes gets overlooked when you are going on multiple interviews or are meeting multiple clients in a day:
Different industries have different norms about what’s appropriate in terms of personal appearance and meeting behavior. For example, wearing an Armani suit to a meeting with a programmer is simply inviting silent ridicule. Similarly, different regions of the country (or the world, for that matter) have different norms. Women who wear even slightly sexy outfits can send the wrong message to managers from the Middle East, for instance. Find out what’s expected before you meet.
Researching the culture is important not just as you carefully craft a cover letter, but when you go to meet an employer in person. I always thought that you couldn’t go wrong with wearing a nice suit, but in some situations, it can be the wrong move. I made the mistake of wearing a suit to an interview in which my potential new boss was wearing jeans and a tee-shirt. I knew the job was an entry level position as an production assistant, and I was embarrassed as she asked how comfortable I was driving a large van on highways and hauling around equipment. Clearly, I was overdressed for the part. If I had done a little more research on what the job would entail, I might have dressed more sensibly.
Unfortunately, a lot of us learn how to make better first impressions by making mistakes, just as I learned from my job interview. Tip number seven, “Measure and Adjust” is necessary if we want to do better the next time around:
Since first impressions are so crucial to success, you’ll want to track the results of your efforts. After each initial meeting, note the response of the people you’ve just met. Pay attention to facial expressions, statements, and subsequent behavior. If the meeting also included a trusted colleague, ask for feedback. Did the first impression you made help or hinder? Where is there room for improvement?
This is a hard step to follow through on, since none of us wants to think we did any less than our best. But if you see a pattern in yourself when meeting new people — for example, I notice I giggle nervously sometimes to fill silence — do your best to make note of it and adjust it the next time. Each time, you will improve, and hopefully find new ways to manage nervous energy before the meeting. In my case, I chose to drink less coffee and to let there be comfortable silences in conversation.
Take some time to do your homework before meeting new clients and potential employers, and follow up with a healthy self-critique. You know your value — now it’s your chance to show everyone else what you have to offer.
Check out all seven tips here.