Everyone wants to make a good first impression at a new job. At its best, a solid first impression can create something called a “halo effect,” in which a person who is seen positively in one area is also seen positively in other areas — even if there is limited evidence or reason to make that assumption.
“Sometimes what happens is that if you make a really splendid first impression, people assume you can do other things, as well,” said Carol Kauffman, a career coach and author of the book Real-Time Leadership: Find Your Winning Moves When the Stakes Are High.
To create this halo effect for yourself, use these strategies the next time you want to make a really good first impression.
As tempting as it may be to try on a different personality in order to make a good first impression or to force a good impression, “The more you try, the worse it gets,” Kauffman said.
Instead, the focus should be on “How can I be my own authentic best self here?” she said. This does mean you won’t win them all, but that wasn’t a realistic goal to begin with, and the good impressions you do make will be due to who you genuinely are, rather than a façade.
Focus on the other person
When it comes to making a good first impression, it helps to take a step back and focus on the other person’s wants and needs. “If I’m meeting with someone, and their energy is that they actually want to listen to me, and they want to know something about me and how I work, they are going to end making a good impression, because I feel like I matter to them,” Kauffman said.
This also has the effect of finding ways in which your needs align: You may have a skill they need or have connections that are useful to them. Focusing on the other person also broadcasts your own security. “When you are insecure, it’s all about you,” said Daphne Jones, a career coach and author of the book Win When They Say You Won’t: Break Through Barriers and Keep Levelling Up Your Success. “But when you say, ‘How can I help?’ then it’s not about you, it’s about them, which is going to give a good first impression.”
Consider their perspective
As Kaufmann points out, people often make this mistake when they are putting together a big presentation at work: Instead of focusing on the perspective of the audience to ensure they are able to understand the core message, people often focus on adding in as many details as possible in an effort to come across as smart and accomplished. “The problem is that they are not thinking about what it is like to hear them,” she said.
The problem with this strategy is that it can backfire by overwhelming and confusing the audience. Instead, the focus should be on thinking about what the audience is hearing, and making sure that the message is clear, simple, and of value to the people who are listening.
Find a way to relate
It also helps to have an understanding of who the other person is, including their personality style. Some people prefer warmth and empathy, others prefer data and facts, while others may value assertiveness.
This is not to say that you should change who you are in order to relate to other person, but it does mean channeling the various parts of yourself that may be more likely to click with their personality. “You want to be aware of the relational preference of the other person,” Kauffman said. “How can you be agile enough to adjust your style to whatever the person prefers?”
A good first impression also comes by being prepared; make sure projects are completed on time, do any necessary background research, and be able to answer any questions that may come up. Ultimately, you want to cultivate an image that you are a person who does the job well, and can be depended on to deliver. “You want to deliver early, and deliver more than what was expected,” Jones said.
Practice the W.A.I.T. strategy
Jones recommends recommend employing the W.A.I.T. strategy, which stands for “Why Am I Talking?” In other words, be selective in when you speak up and why. “If someone is always hearing you talk, talk, talk, then the value of your words will be less, and they’re not going to listen to you,” Jones said. “Your voice will not be heard.”
Her recommendation is to be intentional about when you speak up. “Is your question worth it?” Jones said. “Is it better than the silence that you are interrupting?” As she notes, when you are intentional about your words, it creates the impression that when you do speak up, your words have weight and value.
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