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7 Tips for the First 7 Seconds

January 05, 2012 by Careerminds

Jennifer Fry
Careerminds Consultant

When you meet a new person, it takes them only 7 seconds, sometimes less to form an opinion of you, and as they say, you only get one first impression. During a time of career transition, you’ll likely encounter a number of first impression opportunities (i.e.: making new connections at networking events, meeting a hiring manager for an interview, etc), and when a new job is at stake, you want to do all you can to establish a good first impression.
From the way you look to the way you speak and act, any number of components can contribute to the impression you make. Here are several to keep in mind.

  • Presentation: You know the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but unfortuantely, when it comes to first impressions, appearance does matter. The solution is to present yourself appropriately. Consider the environment into which you’ll be going, and dress yourself accordingly; an interview at an accounting firm calls for different dress than cocktail hour with music industry pros, for instance. Use your best judgement to determine what’s appropriate based on the industry or event, and from there, remember to appear well-groomed and tidy. A clean-shaven face or a little restraint with the makeup brush is never a bad choice.
  • Mind Your Manners: A little old fashioned politeness never goes unappreciated, so remember your “pleases” and “thank yous,” and don’t stop there. Be attentive and interested at all times. Some of the best signals that you’re paying attention are making eye contact, using non-verbal indicators to respond while others are speaking, and mirroring others’ body language.
  • Use Names: People like to hear their own names, so once you’ve been introduced, be sure to call a person by his/her name. Not only will this make the other person feel great, it will show them that you’re genuinely interested in what they’ve said, even if it’s just, “Hello my name is _____.” Use names repeatedly in conversation, but don’t go overboard, and if you get the chance to learn/use names of spouses, children, etc., go for it.
  • Be Careful With Humor: Everyone loves a good joke, that’s true, but not everyone has the same sense of humor. When you meet someone new, it’s hard to know what they’ll find funny, stupid, offensive, etc., so you’ll need to be cautious. That’s not to say you should be all business– sharing a good laugh is a great way to break the ice or to build a social bond– just be wary of topics that could be considered off-color, too personal, etc.

**First impressions don’t always happen in person.**

  • Leave Thoughtful Voicemails: If you’re first impression is made through a message you leave on the phone, keep in mind that some formalities apply. If you’re returning a call, respond promptly, preferably within 24 hours. State your name, the name of who you’re trying to reach, the time and your phone number straight away. Explain the purpose for your call concisely– no one wants to sit through a long, rambling voice message– and repeat you phone number once more at the end. To avoid a game of phone tag, feel free to include a specific time at which you can be reached. Be sure to speak clearly and slightly slower than usual throughout.
  • E-Mail Manners: Keep correspondence timely and concise. Try to respond to all e-mails within 24 hours– it’s been said that the most successful professionals are the most responsive– and make good use of the subject line, getting the general point across in no more than five words. Include the most important information within the first few lines of the message, and keep the rest to a minimum unless greater detail is required/expected. Don’t neglect proper spelling and grammar, and remember to sign your name at the end.
  • Don’t Neglect Your Social Network Profile: First impressions count online, too, and the best way to make a good one is to maintain your profile, be it on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. Profiles without pictures or with incomplete or outdated information turn people off right away, so when you set up your account, fill everything out and include a tasteful picture– think of this as your greeting to everyone who visits your profile.

Whether you’re mingling at a networking event, introducing yourself to the HR representative who’s conducting your interview, or hoping to make an important connection on LinkedIn, it’s important that you get it right from the start. It only takes a matter of seconds to make a first impression, so be sure that each one counts.

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Careerminds provides scalable, strategic solutions to organizations seeking affordable, web-based outplacement services. Using a Web 2.0 e-learning platform that delivers affordable, online career transition services, Careerminds provides a high-tech and high-touch blend of on-demand career transition education supported by senior-level career consultants to help displaced workers reenter the workforce quickly.

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