The first time someone meets you, it takes them about three seconds to determine whether they like you or want to do business with you in the future, says Jean Baur, a career coach and author of the book “The Essential Job Interview Handbook.”
This is crucial when it comes to meetings where that first impression makes all the difference, such as a job interview. From your posture to the jewelry you wear, key details can have a significant impact on how you’re perceived.
Nicole Williams, a career expert at LinkedIn, tells Business Insider that “the problem with appearance is that it translates to performance. Even if your boss doesn’t think that they’re thinking any less of you, they will subconsciously think it.”
Here are a few ways to make a brilliant first impression in a flash:
First and foremost, you need to look like you take care of yourself. This means paying attention to your fingernails, hair, and makeup. Baur says to make sure that your fingernails are clean and trimmed or nicely manicured. If you wear makeup, you should make sure it doesn’t draw attention to itself, but is used to highlight your features.
Don’t forget to also pay attention to your feet. Williams tells us that her biggest pet peeve is when when women wear open-toed shoes without getting pedicures. “If you’re going to show your toes, make sure your toes are well-groomed,” she says.
If you are a man who is interested in sporting facial hair, make sure that it works for you, says Adam P. Causgrove, CEO of The American Mustache Institute.
Think about it like a haircut — not every cut is going to look good on every person, he says. Regardless, your facial hair needs to be kept trim and tidy to maintain a professional look.
Whatever you wear, make sure it’s appropriate in your industry. “Everyone draws their lines differently,” says etiquette coach Barbara Pachter. “For example, you may be able to wear shorts, but not cutoffs. If your company has a dress code, follow it.”
Baur advises: “If you’re in banking, wear a navy blue, gray, or black suit (pantsuits are fine for women). But if you’re in marketing, training, or academia, you have a wider choice. I like to wear bright colors, such as a red or turquoise, as they complement my coloring and reflect my personal style.”
It’s also important to consider how your color choices will play in the environment, says Pachter. “Darker colors usually convey a stronger impression than lighter ones.” If you’re giving a presentation, make sure the color you’re wearing doesn’t blend in with the background behind you.
According to 2,099 hiring managers and human resource professionals who participated in a CareerBuilder survey, blue and black are the best colors to wear to a job interview, and orange is the worst. Conservative colors, such as black, blue, gray, and brown, seem to be the the safest bet when meeting someone for the first time in a professional setting, whereas colors that signal more creativity, like orange, may be too loud for an interview.
“Keep your jewelry subtle unless you’re an opera singer or nightclub entertainer,” says Baur. “And don’t wear things that will clank when you rest your hand on the table or that make noise when you gesture.”
Accessories are meant to complement your outfit, not overpower it. “I once met a woman who had a ring on every finger,” Pachter tells us. “You couldn’t look at anything else.”
A good, straight posture conveys confidence and that you’re worthy of attention. You should learn to sit in the front half of your seat with both feet on the floor, back straight, and shoulders back. Baur says this shows that you’re fully there and interested.
Also, don’t cross your legs or let your legs bounce up and down. These bad habits are distracting to others and make you appear immature and not serious.
It’s OK to talk with your hands — it actually brings your message alive. “Try in your everyday conversations to build ‘gesture awareness’ and let your hands be descriptive,” says Baur. This means that if you say the word “huge” in your conversation, practice gesturing what huge looks like. Whatever you do, don’t lace your fingers together and play with your rings, as these are unproductive ways to release energy.
6. Facial expression
Make sure your face is pleasant by smiling often and maintaining eye contact at appropriate times. “If [you’re] frowning or [your] face looks frozen in nervousness, the interviewer could easily get the impression that [you’re] difficult or indifferent.”
When you smile, make sure that you are giving off a genuine smile.
Don’t do anything out of the ordinary when it comes to the handshake. Simply grasp the other person’s hand firmly, say something like “very nice to meet you,” look at them directly in the eye, and smile warmly.