They say it takes less than seven seconds for someone to evaluate you when they first meet you. This may seem unfair especially if you are having a bad hair day and your washing machine has broken down. The truth is, however, we give away many facts about ourselves with our clothes, hair, and yes, even our weight.
Let’s say you’re hiring, and someone shows up for a job interview: they have ten facial piercings, a tattoo of a snake eating a heart, a Mohawk, and fishnet stockings. Would you employ them? They could be supremely well qualified, the best salesman in the world, and a complete asset to your business but they would have a hard job to persuade you.
Equally, consider someone with a sharply pressed suit, a perm with no hair out of place, a French manicure, an iPhone stuck permanently to their ear and a Blackberry always at their fingertips. Would you want to spend a pleasant evening with them? Perhaps not.
Luckily, our appearances are under our control. We can cover tattoos, change out of our suits, and use makeup to shock or to minimize. We can appear laid back for a social occasion, attractive and flirty for a date, professional and organized for a job interview.
Here are ways you can ensure that your appearance helps people judge you in the best light:
1. Dress Appropriately
Fishnet stockings and F-You t-shirts work great at a club or spending a night on the tiles. In a board meeting, however, a suit or “casual smart” outfit will stand you in a better stead.
You should be able to judge the occasion and make a choice accordingly.
This doesn’t mean you need to look like a complete clone; a splash of individuality can help people remember you. A piece of jewelry or colorful shirt can help add a touch of spice to an otherwise dull outfit. Just remember: less is usually more.
2. Stay Clean
Basic hygiene is clearly important. Greasy, lank hair and B.O. says nothing good about you. Unless you’re a journalist going undercover somewhere squiffy, you should always wash every day, brush your teeth, and apply deodorant (or herbal equivalent).
Some things vary from country to country- in the U.S., for example, body hair on women is frowned on- more so than in continental Europe.
3. Check Your Teeth
Food between the teeth, unzipped flies- it’s not the end of the world, but it can shatter a carefully cultivated poise. Check your teeth in a mirror after meals and before leaving the house.
4. Be on Time
The concept of being “fashionably late” is over. It makes you look disorganized or careless. If you say you will attend something, be there or call if you can’t make it.
A big smile and a friendly attitude makes you more approachable than anything else. Even on the phone, a smile can make you sound more open and friendly. Look someone in the face when you are talking to them, and don’t cross your arms or stare at your feet. Shyness can oftencome across as surliness or coldness.
6. Ask Questions
Nothing kills a relationship quicker than the uncomfortable silence. Be it a business meeting, a date, or an outing with your future in-laws, silence should be avoided.
Luckily it is easy to jump-start a conversation. Just ask questions. People love someone who is interested in them, and love talking about their kids, their vacations and their plans.
If you discover a common interest, even better.
You don’t have to look like a model or spend a fortune on clothes and accessories to make good impression. Some well-cut second hand clothes from a thrift store or charity shop, a big smile, and staying clean is all you really need to make a good first impression, and let people have a chance to get to know you properly.