It would be nice to think that when we first met our new boss we didn’t stumble as we moved forward to shake our hand, put our hand on the desk to steady ourselves, thus knocking a stack of resumes off the desk into a pile on the floor.
But that first moment is often burned into the memory of the person who just met us. Fortunately for me, my new boss had done something similar and a week after I was hired, we both laughed about it. In fact, the fact that I didn’t get too flustered, offered to help pick up the papers, but then stood back when she refused because the information was confidential actually worked in my favor.
She liked how I handled myself. So despite that clumsy start, I had made a relatively good impression.
But what about when we don’t know that a person we meet for the first time might actually be someone important to us later in life? The idea, then, is to work to make a good impression on anyone you meet for the first time.
I have little regard for an individual introduced to me who doesn’t even look up from their cell phone and hands me a flaccid hand, no grip, no engagement. If that person were to come to me at some point in the future for a job, I would immediately move on to the next candidate.
Are you wearing sunglasses? Even if it is sunny and you’re outside, be courteous and remove your sunglasses. Part of that first impression is being able to see your eyes. Even if the person you’re meeting does not remove their sunglasses, you have been the one to have made a better and more lasting positive first impression.
When you know you’re going to be meeting someone for the first time and you’re told, “No big deal. Dress casual.” Don’t roll out of bed and put on your smelly crumpled shirt and trousers from yesterday. If you dress as if you don’t care, then why should anyone believe that you’ll care any more about anything else? You don’t have to be the best dressed person in the room, but dress as if you have taken some time to prepare for the occasion. Simple courtesy goes a very long way.
Be careful, too, when meeting someone important to your partner. We had a holiday party at our home and my husband invited all his team and their significant others. Most everyone was very pleasant, courteous, on their best behavior. Except one person. She accompanied a new hire on my husband’s team, and while he had made an excellent impression during his job interview, his girlfriend proceed to ruin it at the party. She complained about the food, didn’t like the gifts that were passed out, and proceeded to tell us everything that she found wrong with her boyfriend.
Fortunately, her boyfriend is an excellent worker, and had already created a track record at work. But if that had not been the case, his girlfriend could have absolutely ruined his chances at even getting an interview because she had made herself so obnoxious. Her baggage doesn’t belong to anyone but herself, and in a social situation where she was meeting a number of people the first time, it would have been better if she had just quietly smiled and said nothing.
Lastly, don’t talk about yourself. Engage the other person in conversation and ask what I call “Discovery Questions.” These are questions designed to “discover” things about the other person. So, obviously, no “yes” or “no” questions, and when you ask a question, be attentive to the answer. People are very taken when someone asks questions about them and really listen to their answers.
It doesn’t take a lot to make a good first impression. And, even as demonstrated at the beginning where I made what I was afraid was a lousy first impression, I managed to save it by staying in tune with the situation and not belaboring the point that I had made a mess in the office of my new boss. She remembered that and gave me the job.