Distinguish Yourself: Great First Impressions

Your first impression is very important, whether for a job interview, a donor visit, a first meeting, or any first interaction with another person. Make sure you take steps to distinguish yourself and have the other person thinking “wow” after the interaction. Here are some tips to do that:

Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. You can always dress down but its often difficult to dress up during the day. You should consistently dress in business clothing and then simply remove your coat or tie if you realize everyone else is dressed more casually. If unsure, ask the interviewer or person with whom you are meeting what appropriate dress will be.

Don’t allow small things to make a big negative impression. Your appearance is more than your clothing. Make sure your breath is fresh by taking a mint before a meeting. Don’t wear large or outlandish jewelry or accessories like hats that will draw extra attention to yourself. You should be yourself and wear what you choose, but don’t be “that person” who is remembered for something other than your talents and skills. Check yourself for any food or debris on your clothing, face, or teeth and don’t wear heavy cologne or perfume. Your first impression shouldn’t be that people can smell you coming!

Smile. This may seem intuitive, but even Dale Carnegie recommends it in How to Win Friends and Influence People. People will be drawn to you and it will liven up the meeting if you are smiling and enjoying yourself, even if you are nervous or uncomfortable.

Show up on time. You show that you value the other person’s time and really care about the job or issue when you are early. On time is late.

Anticipate early questions and have a plan. Avoid awkward silences or inappropriate questions by thinking through your first few points of conversation, and stick to your script. For example, do research on the people with whom you are meeting and prepare some questions about common interests.

Leave a great first impression because people usually remember that more than the details of what else you do and say in the meeting.

Roger Custer is Executive Director of America’s Future Foundation.

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