It has been said, that we form an opinion of someone we have never met before within the first 3 seconds. Not only do we form a judgement of a stranger in the first 3 seconds, but this judgement is also very hard to shift. These first impressions are greatly influenced by our non-verbal communication; with studies showing that non-verbal cues have over 4 times the impact on a first impression than anything you actually say. Therefore making a good impression -whether it’s a first date, a job interview, or meeting someone of importance- is perhaps something we cannot leave to chance.
Part of the reason why we make such snap (and therefore potentially wrong) assumptions about others is due to the “cognitive miser effect”. This process describes humans making quick-fire assumptions about situations and other people based only on thinking as much as they feel they need to. Therefore these judgments are based on limited information and are unsurprisingly not always reliable. This means that when other people look at you they see what they expect to see. So if you have gone to a job interview and you have described yourself as intelligent then those interviewing you will be looking for evidence of intelligence in your behaviour. However, if you are perceived as lazy by your employer they will only ever see evidence of your laziness and not your other attributes.
So now you know the psychology around the importance of a good first impression, you know how to work it to your advantage. Research has demonstrated that a smile and a widening of the eyes and raising your eyebrows conveys warmth and is a universal gesture of recognition and acknowledgement, which makes you seem approachable.
In a job interview type scenario, do your research on who is interviewing you (if possible) and the company/organisation. Not only will this give you an idea of what the interviewer wants in an employee you will also be better equipped to demonstrate how useful you can be to them and the company. Asking questions, even if you already know the answers, is a great way for you to be able to then highlight your strengths and how you can help them in their endeavours.