How They Form That First Impression Of You


You’re up for that big promotion and you get wind that they’re flying in the big boys from Corporate to meet you in order to check you out; oh and they’ll be wanting to meet the wife of course. Not to worry, it’ll just be an intimate dinner with the two of you and the three of them. Or more likely, you’ve landed an interview and you’re going to be meeting someone, or some people from the company who are going to be conducting the interview.

In both scenario’s you are going to be on display and those people are going to be checking you out. So in order to prepare you, let’s look at HOW they’ll go about that. Remember that this process makes sense. Why? Well, they’ll be using all five senses to help them in shaping their opinion of you, and ultimately their judgement pronounced upon you!

Feel, smell, taste, see, hear  + their past experiences = the impression they form. The good news is you can influence the impression they form by breaking down the five senses. The handshake is one of the first things strangers may do when first walking up to you. That extended hand in your direction is one way they’ll use to then make a leap to what your handshake conveys. Is it limp, firm, bone-crushing, and does that in turn convey weakness, assertiveness maybe aggressiveness?

The eyes of course will be used to see what you look like. Are you dressed appropriately for the interview or not? Was that a brown sock and a black sock I just saw? Your clothes will tell them whether you might fit in or not, whether you take the interview seriously or not, and the clothes you’re wearing might be the best you’ve got in some situations.

Oh and these new people will use their nose to smell you as odd as that sounds. It will be subtle, but whether or not you’re wearing a strong perfume or cologne, or whether you have a strong body odour will influence their opinion. In a heat wave you might be concerned about sweating and the resulting smell, or perhaps you subtle fragrance reminds someone of a past spouse, and if that ended badly, well, too bad for you.

Using their ears to listen to your words, their tone, your vocabulary, your answers (weak or strong), your use of humour, your monotone voice; all will again influence that opinion.

Lastly we come to taste. Now of course they aren’t going to literally nibble on your ear or lick your cheek, but you’ll find they may say to themselves after you have left, “Leaves a bad taste in my mouth” or “What stories and humour! He left me thirsty for more”.

Now all of the five senses that an interviewer may employ are certainly things you can influence for the good or the bad. The one thing in that equation above that you have limited power to control is past experiences. So if all the panel members across from you are new to you, there is no personal past history to have influenced. In this case, they will be nonetheless comparing you to other people from their past and judging you based on whether those past relationships worked or not. For example, maybe you are way too young in their opinion and remind them of Anwar who was so full of himself and thought he was better than his co-workers. Maybe a prejudice of theirs rises when your strong body odour from years of cooking with spices hits their nostrils and they are instantly reminded of a very bad experience they had while on vacation in a foreign county. How are they going to deal with you on a daily basis? Not fair of course, but maybe reality playing out in their head too.

Now in the case of a promotion, you may know every person on the interview panel. The sum total of all their dealings with you up to this point in time will of course influence their decision and their opinion of you as they try to imagine you in a different role. Can they see you as a Supervisor with respect from your peers? That incident in the staff kitchen with the whipped cream might have been funny back then, but at this new level could never be tolerated.

Think carefully about how you craft your image both as you prepare for the interview over a few days and in whatever situation you find yourself in here and now. In your current job, you may not be pushing for any promotion. However, realize that others are taking notice of you unconsciously on a daily basis. They’ll put the sum total of those experiences together like a puzzle if and when you decide at some future date to move forward and apply for a promotion. If you don’t realize and act on this reality, you’ll perhaps wish that you had.

Feel, smell, taste, see, hear  + their past experiences = the impression they form.

A nice, neat simple formula that wraps up how we form opinions and pass judgements on those around us, and equally important, how they form opinions and pass judgement on us!

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