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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Importance of First Impressions!

Depending on your views about where we all came from, life on Earth has been evolving for 3.6 billion years.
Mankind has been sauntering around for a mere 200,000 years. Modern thinking has been going on for less than that.

It is therefore clear that the instincts by which we make our decisions are much more established forces than the intellect with which we 'rationalise' our decisions.

When we first meet someone, our instincts tell us within a microsecond what we feel about that person. We may feel fear, or we may feel joy, or - ahem - fifty shades of grey in between! On most occasions, our million-year old instincts are correct. Not always, but mostly.

So whenever you want to create a positive first impression, you must bear this in mind and do everything you can to create this warm fuzzy feeling in your beholder. Obviously, in the context of our business, this applies to business meetings and particularly job interviews, but the principles apply to all forms of human contact.

And it doesn't only apply to face-to-face meetings (although this is where the complexity is at its greatest); it can also apply to verbal (eg telephone) meetings (telephone screening interviews for example), and written presentations, such as letters of application and CVs.

Regarding face-to-face job interviews specifically, the good news is that generally, the interviewers want a good outcome. They want to like you. They want to hire you! But the bad news is that it's entirely down to you to do everything right, or at least, the best you can.

A very short stint of Googling will furnish you with many websites to help you, but the most important things to remember are these:

Image is all ! When you walk round the corner, your beholder's instincts will issue a verdict to his/her thinking mind, ranging from 'Yay! This has got to be our next recruit!' to 'OMG ! Look what the cat brought in !'Obviously we'd like to be nearer the front end of that scale.

Personal Presentation: Be as neat and tidy as you possibly can. You will usually have plenty of time to prepare in this respect. Choose neutral colours and conventional clothes. If you're interviewing for a presenter on children's TV, then wacky garb may be called for. But there are virtually no circumstances when playing safe won't win you brownie points. Wear a suit and tie (men), conventional skirt suit (women), plain shirt/blouse, perhaps a dash of colour (tie/scarf) but nothing that could frighten the horses.

Keep add-ons (jewllery etc) to a minimum. Never underestimate the capacity in other people to be prejudiced. If you really wouldn't like to work for someone who doesn't like the bone through your nose, then fine. Just remember, this could be the job of a lifetime, and you can always wear the bone in your free time.

Make sure your clothes are clean and neatly pressed/ironed. Do your tie up properly. Shine your shoes.

Cleanliness: Make sure you are and look clean. Pay attention to detail - clean your hands and fingernails. Shower before you leave for the interview and use deodorant in modest quantities. If your best friend hasn't advised you about your bodily odour, be aware that a lot of people have sensitive nostrils.

Be Natural: Very hard when you're in a high-stress situation, but do the best you can. If you've prepared well for the interview (advice on how to do this can be found on the Seltek website) you shouldn't have too much to worry about. Don't try to be something/somebody else. No matter who you're being interviewed by, be neither subservient nor arrogant. Everyone is equal in value.

And..remember Franklin D Roosevelt's motto: The only thing to fear is fear itself!

Smile: Much has been written about the smile but we all know that as long as it is a natural, rather than a forced, smile, then it will have a positive effect. No matter what first impression you get from the person you are meeting (and of course, every human encounter is a two-way street), try to think that this person could become immensely significant in your life.

Handshake: Again, much has been written about the handshake. It is very often the only physical contact two humans have with one another. By and large, we don't like touching strangers. The handshake however, is commonly accepted and used the world over, to indicate welcome, acceptance and greeting.

Ideally, your handshake should be right in the middle: neither too weak nor too strong, neither too short nor too long. The hands should be vertical (palm to the side) - not one on top of the other (or vice versa). Only one hand should be used. Palm should touch palm - don't shake the other person's fingertips.

First words: Despite your abject fear, try to sound positive and relaxed. Don't talk too much (rabbit), nor be too reticent. Initially be formal and use the other person's title and surname. Use an 'ice-breaker':

How do you do Dr.Jones. I'm very pleased to meet you. What lovely offices you have here!

And all this has described the first few seconds of your meeting! How you conduct yourself during the interview is another matter altogether, and advice about this can be found in the link above. However, if you behave much as I've just described then with a bit of luck you'll have created the positive first impression that will leave your interviewer thinking 'This could be The One...!' and the rest of your meeting will go a lot better.

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