Why first impressions count when it comes to interview

We live in a highly visual and demanding society where personal image and branding matters more than ever before. Whether this is finding a new job, being promoted, finding new networks or closing a big contract, it is essential to stand out and get noticed.

Executive business and leadership organisation Aziz has claimed that how we communicate and present ourselves is more important than having an MBA. Like it or not image is important because people believe what they see. Busy people rely on first impressions to make judgments – rightly or wrongly – about you, your values, your standards, skills and experience.

55% of a first impression is based on how you look

Social psychologist Albert Mehrabian found that 55% of a first impression is based on how you look, 38% on the way you sound and just 7% on what you have to say. In order to present a positive professional image, it is important that we pay attention to the messages we communicate both verbally and non-verbally.

So at what point of a job search do first impressions matter? You might think that the answer is at interview stage. After all, we’ve all spent a sleepless night preparing outfits and mastering answers to potential questions. But the reality is, you can and will be judged as soon as you apply for any role.

Your focus should be sharp from the off when you find that role that seems to be perfect for you. Where possible, pick up the phone and speak to the recruiter or job holder. If you are using an outplacement service, it’s worth having a chat with your coach on how to handle a recruitment agency to get the best result for you out of an initial conversation.

There is always an excuse to ask questions, gain clarity, create an advantage by discovering a nugget of information and to assess your suitability. More importantly this is about the ‘human touch’ creating a footprint, which you can build on by following your application through to the interview stage.

“Do you appear confident with positive body language? Lack of passion is often cited as a reason not to employ someone.”

In the early 1980s, Jan Carlzon became CEO of Scandinavian Airlines at a difficult time. Carlzon attributed turning the airline around by focusing on what he later called “moments of truth” – the various points at which people with the airline came into contact with airline customers. He talked about: “Unique, never to be repeated opportunities to distinguish ourselves in a memorable fashion from each and every one of our competitors.” This approach remains relevant today, we need to remain true to ourselves but present our competencies, skills, achievements and personality as robustly as possible.

What are your moments of truth?

Your moments of truth are the call to the recruiter, the cover letter you write, the format and power of your CV, your Linkedin profile, right through to the interview. They are how you handle yourself as you leave the room and when you follow up. How many times does a candidate follow up the interview with a thank you email? It may or may not have been a successful outcome, but it creates a lasting impression.

First impressions are not just about the way you look, they also reflect how you take care of yourself, your personal grooming and attention to detail. Do you appear confident with positive body language? Lack of passion is often cited as a reason not to employ someone.

These quick impressions Psychologists call often call the ‘halo effect’. Harvard Business School social psychologist, Amy Cuddy’s research shows that two traits, trustworthiness and confidence, account for 80 to 90 percent of first impressions. Both vital to gaining credibility in securing a new role, taking on extra responsibility or moving up the career ladder.

First impressions matter and they can’t be recreated. The way you present yourself and how others see you is critical to your personal, professional and social life. Next time you answer an unrecognised call in the middle of a supermarket, take part in a telephone interview with a howling canine companion or a child vying for attention, or fail to do your research and preparation; consider those moments of truth and their importance before you act.

Outplacement helps people who are leaving an organisation – voluntarily or otherwise – to move on confidently and quickly. If you want to discuss what Connor outplacement services can do for you, please get in touch.


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