hand shake

First impressions count

Do you make great first impressions at job interviews or business meetings? Do you present yourself professionally when making phone, fax, e-mail or videoconference contacts?

First impressions are critical. Research suggests that people evaluate others within the first minute. Decisions are usually based on appearance, posture, speech, and demeanor. Many business transactions are won or lost in the first few minutes.

Do you present a favorable first impression?

Check “yes” or “no.”

  1. When sending emails, I address the person to whom I’m sending the message by name.
  2. I arrive on time for appointments, and display courtesy, enthusiasm, and confidence.
  3. I send hand-written thank you notes to helpful business contacts.
  4. I carry my briefcase and coat in my left hand so I can shake with my right hand.
  5. My wardrobe is stylish and appropriate for the company culture.
  6. When conducting business, I stand or sit at the client’s level, and rarely put my hands in pockets.
  7. When leaving telephone messages, I state my message briefly and clearly, and give my name and phone number, repeating these twice slowly.
  8. I never use CAPS when writing emails.

One point for each “yes.” A high score suggests you present a good first impression. Five or less indicates you could improve your image.

How to improve your image

  • Prepare. Research the organization, job or business contact. Be conversant with company products, services, and recent developments. Know how to describe contributions you can make. Practice delivery for presentations or job interviews.
  • Acknowledge others with a smile. A pleasant, sincere smile displays good will and friendliness. Establish eye contact to convey warmth and credibility. Use the person’s name frequently. Shake hands firmly.
  • Demonstrate authenticity. Be spontaneous and natural. Maintain consistency between what you say and do.
  • Attend to nonverbal messages. Stand or sit erect. Express feelings and opinions directly, honestly, assuredly. Lean slightly forward to face the person with whom you’re communicating. If the other person has folded arms, a skeptical facial expression, a rigid body and little eye contact when you speak, stop talking. Ask questions and listen.
  • Speak clearly. Speak with a well-modulated voice and proper enunciation. Adjust your pace and volume to the person with whom you’re speaking. Let the person know you hear him and you understand what he is saying. Nod your head and chime in with verbal cues when appropriate. Ask questions if you’re not sure you comprehend what he is stating.
  • Polish written and verbal communication skills. Leave clear, concise phone messages. Before sending memos or reports, review and proofread. Write simply, clearly, logically. Avoid offensive language. Address the person, and sign your name.
  • Dress professionally. Combine style with comfort and appropriateness. Suitable attire can differ from one industry to another. Research the norm for the area and company. The appropriate look for men is a dark suit. A sport coat and slacks is acceptable. Suits or tailored dresses are acceptable for women. Avoid short hemlines and tight-fitting clothes.
  • Observe yourself in a full length mirror or video, listen to yourself in a tape recorded conversation, or ask a friend for feedback. Rehearse behaviors you want to enhance.

Dr. Carole Kanchier, career and personal growth expert, is author of the award-winning, best seller, Questers: Dare to Change Your Job and Life (2014). A registered psychologist, career coach, speaker, and columnist, Carole Kanchier practices in Calgary: carole@daretochange.com.