First impressions are lasting impressions.  So your first few seconds in a new job, meeting a new client, or networking in person may be much more critical than you think.

Why are First Impressions So Powerful?

Most interviewers will tell you that they have already made up their mind about a candidate within scant moments of meeting him or her for the first time.  Even before a candidate opens his or her mouth, the interviewer has mentally recorded hundreds of impressions of the candidate as a result of observing body language, shaking his or her hand, and seeing the emotions and intelligence reflected in a candidate’s eyes.

Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, in his 2005 bestseller Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking believes a first impression is formed in less than two seconds!   Right or wrong, it’s hard to shake that first impression because our minds have been trained to unconsciously make judgments by what Gladwell calls thin slicing.  Often we never get a second chance to make a first impression or overcome the first impression the other person has of us.

Consider the implications of first impressions for:

  • Candidates meeting prospective employers for the first time;
  • A new employee on his or her first day on the job;
  • Salespeople meeting a new prospect or decision maker for the first time;
  • Meeting someone new at a networking or social event; and
  • Speaking to an unfamiliar audience.

This article will explore ways new employees can make a positive first impression when starting a job, although many of the principles are applicable to all five situations above.

Get Off to a Fast Start in a New Job

Every new employee is under intense scrutiny as hiring managers and HR attempt to evaluate each new hire’s potential.  Impressing in a series of interviews and during the selection process was only the preliminaries.  Every new employee starts out at exactly the same place in the job since there is no performance track record to view, no known bad habits, and an equal opportunity to excel.  Each new employee has one chance to make a great first impression, and that first impression is a lasting one.  

Here are ten ways to stand out and make a great first impression during your onboarding period:

1. A positive attitude with positive energy. People are always attracted to positive people, folks with a smile on their face and always something positive to say.  No negatives, complaining, or whining; just a “can do” attitude.

2. A positive work ethic. It means arriving early, staying late, minimizing break times, and focusing on doing whatever is assigned, to the absolute best of your ability, regardless of who, if anyone, is watching.

3. Getting to know the players. Who are the people you need to know, what do they do, and how can you build a positive relationship with them?  Learn their names, remember their names, and greet them by name with a genuine smile and positive eye contact.

4. Minimize the social chatter. To the inevitable, “How was your day/night/ weekend?,” resist the urge to chatter and simply respond, “Great, and yours?” And never gossip, because gossip means that no one will ever trust you.

5. Observe how things are done. Every organization has its own way of doing things, and the quicker you can learn this, the better. Do this before you offer opinions!

6. Leave every bad habit behind. You know what things hold you back from being an A-player in your last job and an A-player at school.  The only person who can repeat or reject those bad habits is you.

7. Model integrity. Always DWYSYWD – do what you said you would d  People who do this build trust and trust is at the foundation of every successful career.

8. Keep your boss informed. Ask him/her how and when he/she would like to be updated, then do it.  Volunteer for assignments you can do or that will stretch you.

9. Think in terms of company goals. Find out what the goals are, and figure out how what you do can move the company towards those goals.

10. Make no excuses. You will make mistakes, but you should NEVER make an excuse.  Your boss will appreciate that you don’t make excuses or the same mistake twice.

Bottom Line

You have but one chance to make a positive first impression, and much of that first impression will be under your direct control.  Seize the opportunity to start well, from your first moment on the job, and watch as your career path opens up a lot more quickly.

Hank Boyer is CEO of Boyer Management Group, works with employers and job seekers alike to help them become more successful. See his two newest books on job search at Amazon.com.

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