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First impressions

Dolly Parton once reportedly said “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap!” She’s a hoot that woman. In a similar way, it takes may be 10-30 seconds to form a first impression, It takes a lot of time to make sure it’s the right one because it can make the difference between being taken seriously or not.

Let’s start with recruitment. Employers are always told to base their views of candidates on a range of data. Don’t just form an impression on candidates’ hair, height, suit, weight etc., but look deeper into what an individual can offer. But the first 30 seconds when meeting someone can leave a lasting impression and having recently done some recruiting both in-house and for clients, it’s clear that first impressions count for a lot.

In a recent study randomly selected individuals were shown up to 35 seconds of video footage of interviewers greeting those attending an interview. They were then asked to rate the applicant on specific attributes such as self-confidence and friendliness. Their assessments were compared to those of the interviewer, who had gone on to spend half an hour with the applicant. The results were very similar which suggests that having seems someone and formed an initial opinion, the interviewers then unconsciously asked questions or interpreted answers to confirm it.

Often we form a first impression of someone without even realising what contributes towards it. In recruitment, the first factor is timing. There isn’t much else that gives a worse impression than being late for an appointment, whether it is a job interview or client meeting. You should always allow plenty of time to get there, taking into account traffic problems and possible trouble finding the venue. Arriving too early can also cause problems. Chances are the meeting you are attending will be planned around other meetings, so being more than ten to 15 minutes early can cause the other party to feel flustered or irritated. In our Build and Fly Your Own Rocket programme for schools in which we talk to students about how to make the right first impression, we recommend to students that if they do arrive early they should get a drink and freshen up before making their way in. They should aim to be five to ten minutes early, but no more than that.

The next factor is appearance. It is so important to look this part and this goes well beyond recruitment. Karren Brady wrote about her first jobs. She always wore a suit, always started early, worked late and volunteered to do anything. She was taken seriously (unlike the other trainees who didn’t think it was cool to be such an eager beaver) and her career prospered. Don’t underestimate the importance of appearance. For any interview candidates should dress fairly formally unless there is a specific request to the contrary (there may be a hands on task for which candidates may need to dress differently). I have seen many people turn up to interviews casually dressed and it looks like they aren’t taking the interview seriously. Men should be in a atailored suit or tailored separates with a pressed shirt and a sensible tie done up properly, ladies in a skirt or dress just a little above knee length (not Bridget Jones’ belt!) or tailored separates and always with a jacket. Skirts and dresses should always be with hosiery and clothing should not be too tight or revealing. Shoes should be clean and polished, there’s an old saying that you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes, and it’s true, it says a lot about how one looks after himself. Hair and hygiene are also vital. Remember the deodorant and don’t overdo the perfume or cologne. Hair should be clean and well groomed, and make up should be kept to a minimum. While it is ok to have pierced ears, many professionals do not like facial piercings and tattoos. These should be taken out or covered up where necessary.

A good handshake says a lot about a person. It should be a firm grip portraying confidence. A limp handshake can show that you are shy and tentative; the other extreme will not only hurt the other person but can show that you are too keen or dominant.

Body language accounts for 55 percent of communication so a good posture and not fidgeting are important. Don’t play with clothes or jewellery and if you know you play with your hair, tie it up to stop the temptation. Sit up straight and keep your shoulders back, slouching is not a good look. Don’t fold your arms as this gives the impression you are fed up and keep eye contact with the person you are talking to.

It is a lot to think about in the first 30 seconds of meeting someone but getting it right will leave a lasting good impression and could lead to a world of opportunities, be it getting a job, meeting a new client or landing a sale.

For help with recruitment contact us on 0845 644 8955 or email us.

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