Carefully Manage Your First Impression

First impressions are lasting. We're all familiar with this adage. Yet, many job hunters aren't aware of how little time we have to create that all-important first impression.

"You have approximately seven seconds in which to make a good first impression," says wardrobe stylist, Kristen Kaleal. "During that seven seconds we're being judged on our education level, our level of sophistication, our attention to detail, how much self-confidence we have..."

Whether or not the assumptions made during that seven seconds are accurate, they will impact how we are perceived. Make a good first impression and it will set the tone for your meeting or interview. Make a poor first impression and you'll instantly find yourself in an uphill battle. Fortunately, we can control the first impression that we make.

"It's called impression management," Kaleal says. "It means that we can control what other people think of us based on our appearance, our grooming, and how we communicate with them."

All the World's a Stage

Famed playwright, William Shakespeare wrote, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts." Shakespeare undoubtedly would have considered the theory of impression management a given.

The idea of impression management was developed in the late fifties by American micro-sociologist, Erving Goffman. Goffman took a performance-oriented approach to interpersonal communication. He realized that everyday people work at creating their desired impression on others, much the same way that an actor use costumes, makeup, props, and body language to convey a character on a stage.

Impression management is the goal-directed activity of controlling or regulating information in order to influence the impressions formed by an audience. As a job hunter, it is your goal to present yourself in a manner that is consistent with the impression you want to make with employers and people you encounter during networking. Being completely aware of the impression you want to make with others will impact the choices you make in job interview and networking situations.

Manage Your First Impression

Impression management or self-presentation (the use of impression management to control impressions of oneself) includes the thoughtful use of:

* Dress and grooming (clothing, hair, make-up, etc.)
* Behavior
* Body language
* Facial expressions
* Communication

The calculated use of dress, grooming, behavior, and communication during an interview or networking meeting is designed to demonstrate that: You are who they hoped you were. Learn as much as possible about the company, position, and hiring manager ahead of time. It will be much easier to determine what kind of employee they are looking for and demonstrate that you fit with the company's culture.

An actor uses costume, makeup and props to convey a character that may be wholly different from themselves. However, the job hunter's use of self-presentation should be very different. Use self-presentation to clearly demonstrate your own star qualities - not to pretend to be something you are not. Using impression management to misrepresent oneself might work - for a time. However, it will lead to an unhappy relationship for the employee and employer.

"You are your brand. Your appearance is your resume. You are your own logo," Kaleal advises. "We can use [impression management] to spin our brand in the direction we want it to be perceived." Make good choices regarding clothing, makeup, body language, and they way you communicate with others to carefully manage your first impression.