4 Research-Backed Ways to Make a Killer First Impression
Article by Susan P. Joyce
A few days later, when Eddie hadn’t heard anything from the interviewer, he realized he had forgotten to send his thank-you email. He nervously typed it up, clicked send, and was surprised to see a reply within 30 minutes. He was thrilled at what he read.
The manager remembered everything about Eddie, from the suit he wore to the points he made during his interview. Eddie had made a memorable first impression that resulted in a job offer within the week.
First impressions are critical to the way people judge one another. In August 2016, the Social Psychological and Personality Science (SPPS) journal published a study where participants recalled thoughts they formed about someone in a photo six months after seeing said photo.
In the beginning of the study, researchers asked participants to judge a person’s photo for likability. One to six months later, they brought participants back to interact face to face with the person they previously judged in the photo. It was determined that if the participant said the person was more likable in the photo, it carried over to the face-to-face meeting.
Vivian Zayas, one of the researchers and a professor of psychology at Cornell University, said, “Participants who had said they liked the person in the photograph tended to interact with them face to face in a friendlier, more engaged way.” Researchers reported this happened in part because of “behavior confirmation” and “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
The study seems to reinforce the importance of leaving a good first impression. If a hiring manager can’t remember who you are and what stood out about you, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get the job.
With this in mind, here are four ways to make a killer first impression at a job interview:
1. Call to Pitch Yourself
If you want to make a strong first impression, pitch yourself to an employer before the interview. A February 2015 University of Chicago Booth School of Business study found employers respond better when they can hear a job candidate.
Professor Nicholas Eply and Ph.D. candidate Juliana Schroeder stated in their report, “When professional recruiters listened to candidates’ job qualifications, they rated the candidates as more competent, thoughtful, and intelligent than when they read it, even if the words were the same.”
While you should continue to send emails and resumes for jobs that interest you, pick up the phone and try making some cold calls as well. Hearing you speak about your qualifications might be the push an employer needs to invite you in for an interview.
2. Use Powerful Words to Describe Yourself
The right word in the right place used at the right time can be powerful. Whether in written communication or during the job interview, you want to use words that make you look powerful to your potential employer.
For example, words like “initiative” and “responsibility” are great power words. Saying, “I took the initiative to do this,” shows a potential employer you’re motivated and confident in your ability to handle a task. Furthermore, saying, “It was my responsibility,” to an employer shows you’re self-aware and reliable.
Avoid words like “intelligent,” “likable,” and “successful.” You want to show interviewers why they should hire you based on facts. Don’t tell them you’re “intelligent,” show them by talking about tasks you’ve excelled at in the past and by demonstrating your intelligence during the interview.
3. Choose Your Profile Pictures Wisely
The SPPS study cited above found that “good” pictures received 21 percent more positive responses than candidates with less favorable profile pictures did. Moreover, favorable profile pictures can raise your chances of being invited for a job interview by almost 40 percent.
Unfortunately, there’s no universal definition of what a “favorable” picture might look like. While the definition of “good picture” was left up to the study participants’ own personal tastes, what we do know is that favorable photos are typically clear of any background clutter, have good lighting, and feature subjects who are dressed professionally.
If you can’t arrange for a professional business headshot, develop something else for people to land on. For example, Robby Leonard used his design skills to create an interactive resume listing all of his qualifications. His resume plays on old two-dimensional video games, but it fits his target audience while enabling him to stand out from the crowd. This helped Leonard drew favorable attention to his skills and creativity.
4. Be Engaging
Image is everything. Recall that in the SPPS study, participants who said they liked the person in the photograph were more likely to interact with that person in an engaged way. It has also been determined that when someone is engaged, people tend to pick up on their behavior and respond in the same manner.
If your enthusiasm and engagement are not at peak when you meet someone in person, the disconnect between your first impression and your real-life impression will stand out even more to interviewers.
Many people treat job interviews like standard Q & A affairs. There is a lot at stake, and it’s important to show genuine interest in the interviewer and position. You should maintain eye contact, lean forward in your chair to show you are attentive, and control your voice/tone to make it clear you are engaged and eager.
Employers won’t want to hire you if you don’t want the job. Show them you are excited for the role. Make sure you’re 100 percent in tune with what’s happening in the interview.
There is a lot at stake when you meet a potential employer for the first time. A killer first impression could be the difference between getting the job and not even getting through the door. A job interview has many steps, but the only way you to see how far you can go is to make sure you wow people from the moment they meet you.
A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.