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How do you fair against first impression judgments?

At TD Group we pride ourselves on preparing our candidates for the interview and the subsequent entry into a new workplace.  We consider it a key responsibility and a major part of the entire recruitment and subsequent on-boarding process.

Why do we consider this important?

People judge people within seconds of meeting them.  In fact, the Research Digest says the value of trust is determined within one-tenth of a second!  It then takes just seven seconds to for us to decide if that person is worthy of our time as well as making additional assessments on their wealth, social class, intelligence, like-ability and overall competence.

With this in mind, making a good first impression in the workplace has to be top of the priority list.  Here we look at the judgments people make and how you can ensure you fair well against them.

Visible personal data

Wouldn’t it be nice if people could see through your visible appearance and actually make their evaluation based on your values, morals, experience and intelligence?  Unfortunately, this isn’t possible and therefore, you’re left with first impression judgements made solely on your image.  The clothes you wear, your haircut, facial hair or the make-up you choose, the visible tattoo, the scar on your face and the length of your fingernails all work together to give a first impression.  All of these factors are data that we, as humans collate and use to subconsciously formulate an opinion of others.

According to Sigmund Freud, the subconscious mind makes up 50-60% of our analytical bandwidth and is responsible for quick recall, memories or associations.

Immediate scrutiny

The first thing people decide after meeting you is if you’re trustworthy or not, even before our brains have processed and identified gender.  This happens instinctively and without thought.  The ability to judge others is linked to our instinct for self-preservation, which tells us immediately if someone is a friend or an enemy, a threat or an ally.

The second judgements made include socioeconomic status and intelligence.  A study conducted by Loyola Marymount University discovered that the first few seconds of an interaction formulate an assumption on economic status and intelligence, and these are, unsurprisingly, derived from the use of branded clothing, your watch and jewellery.  The study also found that confidence made a large impact on assumed intellect and making eye-contact made a marked impact on their view of your intelligence.

Communication is key

Let’s expand on eye contact and its relationship to confidence and perceived intelligence by looking at communication as a whole.

Communicating well with people forms the basis of connection, trust and the ability to convince others to invest in you.  Good communicators are naturally well-liked and will of course, get better results in many aspects in the workplace, whether selling a product or simply building a successful team environment.

Can you correct a first impression?

Yes, you can, but, it will take a while.  According to Alexander Todorov, Professor of Psychology at Princeton University, we tend to believe in our initial assessment. If that first reaction was negative, it’s going to take a lot of work and time to persuade that person otherwise.  In the world of job interviews, that second chance isn’t going to happen!

How do we make the right impact, first time?

First of all, look the part!  As we’ve learned, perceived trustworthiness and success is based completely on visual appearance and is decided upon within seconds.  Dress correctly and appropriately.  Looking clean and tidy with clean shoes and neat hair tells that interviewer that you have your life together and that you’re in control.  Same for timeliness.  Arrive early as being late looks lazy and shows a lack of care.

Remember how confidence has a direct link to perceived intelligence?  You’ll want your potential employer and co-workers to have belief in your intelligence and abilities.  So be confident in yourself, stand tall, walk confidently, lift your head, look them in the eye, smile and present a strong handshake.

Communicate well, especially at the first verbal exchange.  Introduce yourself, express pleasure at meeting them and speak clearly.

Use your body language. Crossing your arms and sinking into a chair closes you off from contact. Be as open as possible, use your hands to articulate your point and widen your arms to welcome others to talk to you.  Leaning forward shows interest and enthusiasm whereas leaning back into a chair can give the impression of indifference.

In short, be confident, make eye contact, dress for the part and communicate clearly.  And consider this:

Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.”  Jay Danzie.