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by Marianne Stenger | September 13, 2017


Man interviewing for a job

As summer comes to a close, many of us will be starting new jobs or working with new clients and colleagues. In order to make a good impression, it can help to understand how others perceive us and what we can do to improve the way we come across during that first meeting.

Research shows that most of the time, first impressions are formed within a matter of seconds. Obviously this doesn’t give us much time to do or say anything to influence how we’re perceived, and that’s why it’s so important to arrive on time, dress professionally and look the part.

Once you get past the initial snap judgments and actually spend some time interacting with someone, however, there are things you can do to ensure you come across more positively. So based on the available research, here are five ways to make a better first impression.

1. Smile

If you’re feeling nervous about a meeting or interview, smiling can help you feel more relaxed and will help others perceive you as more relaxed too. Research shows that your brain pays attention to what your body is doing and this affects your emotions. So when you smile, you can’t help but feel happier.

Aside from helping you relax, smiling can also help you make a better first impression, and one study found that 48% of adults believe a smile is the most memorable feature after meeting someone for the first time. Smiling is also contagious, so smiling when you meet someone will help them feel more positively about the encounter, even if only subconsciously.

2. Strike some power poses

Although it’s generally better to convey warmth and trustworthiness than dominance when meeting someone, if you’re feeling nervous before an interview or meeting, striking some power poses beforehand can boost your confidence and help you get past your initial discomfort.

In the same way that smiling can help us feel happier and less nervous, research by Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy shows that standing tall or sitting up straight with our shoulders pulled back can trigger changes in our body chemistry and make us feel more powerful.

So before you leave home, try some pulling some power poses like standing straight and crossing your arms over your chest or planting your feet widely and stretching your arms above your head in a V shape. During your meeting or interview, focus on sitting up straight and keeping your shoulders back.

3. Be an active listener

Whether or not we admit to it, everyone loves talking about themselves, so the best way to make a good first impression is to be an active listener. Research shows that showing an interest in others and asking questions can make you more likeable.

So if you want your interview or first meeting to go well, aim to be an active listener. This involves rephrasing and summarizing to check your understanding of what is being said, using encouraging prompts to keep the conversation going, and giving feedback and asking questions. Just try to avoid asking “Why” questions, as these tend to make people feel defensive and can stall the conversation.

4. Convey respect

Another good way to come across as more likeable and sympathetic is to convey respect for other people’s opinions and ideas. Oftentimes our first reaction to hearing an opinion or idea that differs from our own is to dismiss it or interject with our own thoughts and ideas, but this is the quickest way to come across as uncaring or even disrespectful.

So when interacting with people, especially if it’s someone you’ve just met, make an effort to convey your respect by hearing them out, even if an idea seems unworkable or unrealistic. Simply accepting that their ideas or preferences may differ from your own goes a long way towards showing respect.

5. Ask for advice

This tip might seem a bit counterintuitive because most of us are fairly reluctant to ask for advice. We don’t want to inconvenience others or we worry it will make us seem incompetent.

But research shows that the opposite is true. When we ask others for advice, rather than thinking less of us, they actually perceive us as being smarter and more competent. This is because we naturally think highly of ourselves, so when someone asks for our advice it increases our self-confidence and enhances our opinion of the person who asked for our input.

So if it’s your first week at a new job and you’re looking to make a good impression, don’t be afraid to ask your new colleagues or supervisors for advice and feedback.

Marianne Stenger is a writer with Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading online education providers. She covers everything from career development to learning tips and the latest research in education. You can follow her on Twitter @MarianneStenger or find her latest articles here