First Impressions

I will bet that when you were very young your mother told you more than once, “You only have one chance to make a first impression – don’t blow it.” She was right, but she probably didn’t know how right she was.

Some fairly recent neuroscience has confirmed that we make first impressions within milliseconds and those impressions are hard to change. Think about it. As our ancestors were living in caves and struggling for survival every day, they didn’t have time to interview every new person they met to decide if they should fight or flee. They developed the mental processes to immediately assess if this was a person they liked or disliked so they could react and keep their family safe. We have come a long way since then, but we still have much of that caveman brain.

When you meet a new person, the way that they perceive you in the first few seconds will have a huge impact on their impressions of you. It is even true on the telephone. Scientists have found that just by how you say hello tells the caller a lot about you including your trustworthiness.

Now get ready – this is going to sound like your mother again. When you go for an interview make sure you are neat, clean, well groomed and appropriately dressed. Stand up straight, put your shoulders back and a smile on your face, look them in the eye, say hello in a clear, confident voice and offer them a firm handshake. If you can do those things, the rest of the interview will go well. If you are rumpled, smell bad, look at the ground, mumble a greeting and offer a limp handshake, then pack up your resume and head for the door.

Sound harsh? Maybe – but its life. Self-confidence gets jobs. Lack of confidence gets unemployment. You must believe in yourself. You need to know what you can do and be ready, willing and able to tell others about it. That takes preparation and practice. Get yourself ready. Write out answers to questions and practice saying them out loud. Work on your elevator speech until it rolls off your tongue. Have close friends help you examine your look, your wardrobe, your handshake. Practice your diction and learn to speak clearly. Go to networking events just to practice meeting people and making a first impression. Practice until it is who you are – because it is who you are, you’ve just been hiding behind a lack of confidence.

Regardless of your circumstances, skills, formal training, what-have-you, you can be confident that you are unique. You are a person of value and a child of God. You have worth, you can contribute, you can learn and you can be a positive force for good in your community. You may or may not be ready to be the next CEO, but you can be successful in whatever job you are applying for. If you believe it, they will too.


2 Comments on “First Impressions”

  1. […] written before about the importance of a first impression. Don’t let that impression be marred because the recruiter’s gets an email from […]

  2. […] Finally, reread this blog post from last May on First Impressions. […]


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