You have 7 seconds*: The right impression

About 15 years ago I applied for a teaching job. I had been at my school about eight years and felt I needed a change. After forwarding my written application I was grateful to receive an interview. As the principal showed me to the door at the conclusion of the interview, I will never forget his comment, “Thanks for coming, I really appreciated your sense of humour.” I knew immediately that I created the wrong impression and wouldn’t get the job. I even remember how casually I sat in the chair, I guess I was just having a chat. I gave the wrong impression.

A few years later I applied for another (similar) teaching job, along with 200 other applicants. This time I was successful, securing one of the three positions on offer.

What made the difference? I created the right impression. On both accounts my written application did its job and landed an interview, but on the second occasion I presented in such a way that I was able to convey who I was, show my suitability for the role and the school, and project the right impression, which incidentally, including my sense of humour but in a much more measured way.

The interview situation is probably the most intense context to make a first impression. Over the years I’ve participated on many interview panels and have learnt and observed from the way that people present. We probably under-estimate the many components that make up the first impression, it is so much more than just the words we say.

An impression is an effect, that feeling or image we may retained as a result of an experience. In other contexts it is a mark produced on a surface by pressure, like when I imprint my hand in sand.

I make an impression

I form an impression

And sometimes I’m unimpressed

And most significantly, we make a first impression, but only once. Some impressions have greater consequences than others. That first impression is absolutely crucial.

The impression we make in any situation reflects the effect we have on people and also the feelings we leave with them about us. Ideally, we seek to make an impression that is positive and lasting and it can potentially influence a network of people, thereby building our reputation.

In this series I will reflect on a few key elements of an impression:

  • The elements of a first impression that I can control
  • The impression I seek to make on others
  • The impression that others make on me – “a mark produced on a surface by pressure”
  • And ask, “Can I resurrect a negative impression?”

Add a comment, I’d love to know what you think or whether you disagree.

*Tom Peters,  The Little BIG Things (2010)  “we all have 7 seconds to make a first impression.” (according to Fox News uber-spin doctor Roger Ailes)

Coming up next: The Pressure is on (me)


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