Image courtesy of stock images at freedigitalphotos.net/ A business executive - studies show that "looking the part" creates a positive first impression
If we are going to a job interview, or meeting someone for the first date, we desire to create a good impression. The reasons are straightforward – we would like to be given that job, and fulfil the potential of what could become a wonderful and life-changing relationship.
There is a saying – “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, and this is true. Of course, we know ourselves better than anyone. We know we may be competent and are suitable for the job based on our qualifications or knowledge and that we have personal characteristics that would benefit who we worked for. For example, we may know that we are a “good team player”.
With a date, it might be more complicated. We of course are aware of what we could bring to the relationship, as well as what Jung called our “shadow side”, or negative traits, which we all have so is nothing to be ashamed of.
However, in certain circumstances, empirical research done by social psychologists have demonstrated, through controlled experiments, that there are certain ways in which a good first impression is more likely to be created.
Now, I know you may be thinking “Yes, but I don’t want to be inauthentic or manipulate the truth in any way”, because you may feel uncomfortable doing that. However, the two studies that I am going to mention will not do that – but they just help you to put your best foot forward. You are not going to lie – when I mention the first way to create a positive first impression, I am sure that self-avenue contributors and readers have the personal characteristic I’m about to mention. I won’t rave on, but I believe those interested in personal growth are naturally warm and empathic, from the many, many articles I’ve read. It kind of goes with the quality of being interested in personal growth.
So what’s this big deal about being “a warm person”? Well, this brings me to the first way that experiments have shown creates a first good impression.
1. Without going into too much psychological jargon, there are some personality traits that are called “central”, for the reason they are central to how people form an integrated or overall view of a person. One of these is being “warm” – basically friendly and approachable. Its opposite, “cold” or appearing aloof and unapproachable is also a central trait.
Researchers gave people a list of seven adjectives that describe people, along with its opposite. For example responsible versus unreliable would be one. So there were seven descriptions along with the bipolar opposite. These actually seemed very relevant to a job, such as intelligent, determined and cautious. However, these were found to be “peripheral” traits. The reason they are called “peripheral” is because they were found to be not important, by themselves, in forming an overall picture of what a person was like.
Irrespective of what peripheral traits were listed for the hypothetical person in this experiment, if they were described as “warm” they were much more likely to be thought of in a positive light. The reverse was also true: being “cold” negatively influenced people’s whole impression of the person!
The reason behind this is because being “warm” is associated with many other positive traits – friendly, social, honest, generous and reliable!
Now, the practical application of this is to really create an impression of “warmth” at your first job interview – smile, be friendly, shake hands, and saying things like “It’s really nice to meet you.” Now, you may be an introvert or shy, and just plain anxious at the interview. However, as I said, don’t feel you are being inauthentic or manipulative. As I mentioned, I have no doubt that the empathy expressed by the self avenue writers, for example, and other pieces show a profound degree of caring for others.
However, introversion can be unfortunately mistaken for “being aloof”. So you may need to just overcome that natural disposition (unless of course you are extraverted and have no problem with talking to people), knowing that other positives you may mention about yourself, such as being responsible and conscientious are actually overshadowed by this central trait.
2. In a job interview, you may well be asked to mention your shortcomings as well. Employers want to know that you are ‘real’, which you are – we all have great qualities, but we unavoidably have shortcomings, too. It’s part of being human. However, actual research has demonstrated that people remember more of what is said first over what you say later in a conversation.
It’s known as the primacy effect, the tendency to remember what is heard first. The practical action that can be utilised for your advantage is to mention all your good qualities before your shortcomings. You are still be honest and authentic. All you are doing is changing the order in which you mention your qualities.
3. Now, people sometimes like to think that they do not care how a person presents themselves physically, that much although most people will admit that it does count to some degree. I am not talking about physical appearance or looks, because we cannot change that. However, we can make the best of what we look like by dress, makeup, tidiness, and the like. Well, the third piece of research is something that you will probably know intuitively as well as making common sense, but I thought I’d mention it, because it creates a very big impression of how others see you.
Yes, it’s kind of sad in a way – I know that I’m the same person without makeup and in daggy clothes, but I also have to come to terms it’s just the way people are. I am probably like that too although consciously I don’t realise it.
So whether it be your first date or your initial job interview, take time to dress appropriately, make the most of your appearance whether its putting your hair in a style most becoming to you, wearing make up. Find out how others in the company dress – it shows you have taken interested in fitting in.
The good news is, you can kind of relax a little after you’ve created that good first impression. I don’t mean, become cold (which I know you’re not) or unreliable but you can be more open about yourself, be more real and human, and relax a little with how you dress. This is particularly true with romantic relationships. I’ve heard stories that as the love deepens, people feel more and more comfortable wearing trackies and sand shoes! Also, not coming across as a “perfect” human being down the track can make people feel more at home with being themselves, and relaxed about associating and talking to you.
In a way, it seems a bit unfair, to have to do things when you are always the same on the inside. However, I guess it’s just one of those realities we have to accept, and it’s easier if you think firstly, it’s more likely to lead to a positive outcome for you, and second, think in the way “I am dressing nicely for me, because I like myself”.
Never stop being yourself – you’re wonderful with your positive and not-so-positive qualities. And that beautiful self will shine through in relationships and at work. However, “play the game” at first – but do it for you!