Most people form a first impression in the first seven seconds upon meeting another individual. This mental snapshot may not be accurate, but once created, it can be difficult to change someone’s perspective, even if you get a second chance.
Most of us are unconsciously forming an opinion when we meet someone. This could be in person, through virtual communication such as email or online video conferences, or in reviewing a resume. First impressions can be especially important with a new employer, while networking, and in developing relationships with new coworkers.
If you’re meeting someone briefly, often your appearance and body language contribute significantly to the perception formed. Although you cannot influence some factors such as your age, race, and gender, you can be mindful of your posture, tone of voice, body language, and clothing. It helps to communicate with positive emotions, by smiling and speaking in a clear, warm voice.
As more people work and interview remotely, your first interaction may be virtually or over the phone. Despite not meeting someone face-to-face, many may not consider that a first impression is still being made.
- Written communication for professional interactions requires that you consider the tone in which the message may be received, in addition to reviewing for grammar mistakes. Many resort to abbreviations and more casual conversation in texting and messaging, but correspondence should still present professionally. Without an ability for the receiver to observe your tone of voice or body language, it could result in a different message than intended.
- Video interviews and meetings can make it easy to forget that they still allow the observer to view body language and facial expressions. Consider your audience, and treat these initial interactions in the same manner as an in person meeting by ensuring that your attire, and location, convey professionalism.
- Phone interviews or conferences may seem like an easier alternative, while actually they may increase the pressure on making a positive impression. With the inability to observe your body language and mannerisms, more focus will be upon your verbal responses.
- Resumes and cover letters are often the first step in making that important first impression with a potential employer, and more resumes are being reviewed virtually. This doesn’t decrease the need to present your qualifications in the best manner. Bringing a physical copy to the interview, and following up with an email or phone call, can politely remind an employer of the reasons why you might be the best fit.
Undoing a Poor Impression
Sometimes you may feel that you’ve inadvertently made a poor first impression. This can be difficult to change, even with evidence on the contrary. This can be especially distressing if it may affect your career. A few ways to try to undo a negative impression can include to:
- Acknowledge it and apologize by admitting that you feel you may have come across poorly due to being nervous, or offer another justifiable reason for your actions.
- Avoid over apologizing, which might make your blunder appear more obvious, or use humor to explain your actions.
- Correct the mistake if you feel you’ve communicated or acted in a way that could be perceived as negative, by continuing. An increased time interacting may allow them to alter their perception, because all people are not as quick to form an initial impression.
- Slow down and take your time answering questions, or admit that you don’t know the answer, but assure them that you’ll determine it. Use this time to practice being a good listener.
- Identify opportunities to collaborate on a project, or meet again, to have more time to change a poor impression and allow them to see a different side of yourself.
Positive First Impressions
Your first impression may be the last impression people form. Working locum tenens or in travel nursing, often involves meeting new coworkers and supervisors more frequently. Consider how you can make the best first impression to avoid having to face the challenge of trying to undo a negative impression later. This can allow you to practice putting your best foot forward to start new relationships with a positive first impression.