Set The Tone: How To Make A Good First Impression

In a world of lockdowns and social isolation, a good first impression feels more important right now than ever. In social and business situations alike, we’re all trying to remember how it’s done. Because, whether you’re on a first date or interviewing for a new job, an impression can make or break an opportunity.

Why is this?

According to research conducted at Princeton University, people only need a fraction of a second to make their minds up about something, especially when it comes to faces. It’s terrible, really. Lead researcher, Alexander Todorov, found that we subconsciously use a person’s facial appearance to judge their character. However, this association also extends to a person’s overall style, grooming and presentation.

Whether these snap judgments are warranted or not, we can’t control how our brains function. First impressions matter – luckily, we can change the way we project ourselves in those crucial first minutes.

1.   Smile

A smile is the simplest way to connect with someone. A friendly, healthy smile communicates warmth and enthusiasm. It helps inform others that you are likeable and trustworthy. It is also an easy way to build rapport during interviews, dates, and just about any other occasion. Think about a date for instance. One of the first things a date notices about you is your smile (so don’t forget to floss).

Remember that smiling involves more than just the mouth. You should make eye contact too. This action exudes confidence and openness. People love to engage with someone they can trust, someone who is open, and someone who knows themselves.

2.   Handshake

It’s been a funny couple of years for the handshake, we’ll grant you. But hopefully, life is now returning to a point where a good handshake stands you in good stead at work and beyond, as it always has. Whether you’re meeting your neighbours or a new boss, it’s important to learn how to do a proper handshake.

Essentially, a handshake is a combination of timing and technique. It can be given when first seeing a person and in combination with a greeting. It’s a little old fashioned, but the person of a higher authority or age is usually the first to extend their hand.

As for technique, go for a firm and upright handshake. Your handshake should be not too strong, but not too limp either. It should also be upright. Avoid flipping the other person’s hand over as this can have the effect of  imply that you’re trying to overpower them. Oh, and don’t forget to sanitise.

3.   Wardrobe


We’re preaching to the choir here, but your wardrobe sets the tone. It gives people an idea of who you are and what you’re about. Make sure what you wear accurately portrays you. We’ve said this before, but don’t over or under do it, and never dress like someone you’re not. Of course, you want to dress to impress for a job interview or a date, but there are ways to do that and still be authentically you.

Think about what colours and shapes suit your body or skin tone when finding the right outfit. Men’s clothing styles have evolved to include the broadest range of looks, trends and customisations.

It’s also good to remember that not every occasion warrants a suit. Especially these days. Old ways of thinking about how to make a good impression are no longer in fashion. On some occasions, a suit can even make the wrong impression.

This all comes back to under- and overdressing and the fine line between them. It is important to know what wardrobe is appropriate to your office environment or special occasion. Lastly, accessorise with intent. Cufflinks, pocket squares, or a watch all have the power to elevate your look.

4.   Manners

Don’t forget your manners. While it can be easy to lose sight of good manners in more casual environments, you want to avoid doing so in front of a boss, date or any other important person. Whether you’re meeting your boss for lunch or taking a date to a casual spot, bring your best behaviour with you.

This means saying please and thank you, not interrupting others, respecting others’ opinions, and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, among various other good manners.

5.   Confidence

From the way you speak to the way you dress, there are different ways to exude confidence when you want to make a good impression. For one, always make eye contact when you’re speaking with someone. If you’re constantly looking down or looking away it can suggest to others that you’re not fully sure of what you’re saying, or engaged in the conversation. Be firm and be courageous — the last thing an interviewer wants is someone who can’t step up to the challenge.

Another way to demonstrate confidence is through the words you use. If you know a subject well, show it. This can impress a boss you’re interviewing for. A few pointers for speaking with confidence include taking your time and visualising yourself giving the speech.

6.   Grooming and Hygiene

While understanding how to dress well is important, you also need to know the impact of grooming. The two go hand-in-hand, but are not the same. The perfect suit won’t do you any good if your hair and beard are unkempt. If you want to make a good impression, you need to cover all the bases.

A suave haircut, well-maintained beard and classic fragrance are foolproof ways to step up your grooming routine. Do the basics well too: shower, moisturise, use deodorant and make sure your breath is always fresh. The last thing you want is for a hair or skincare mistake to be the reason for no second date.

7.   Authenticity

Authenticity is one of those modern buzzwords that can mean everything and nothing, but don’t overlook it. When it comes to making a good impression, authenticity matters. It counts. The best way to make a lasting impression is to simply be yourself.

Speak your opinions honestly, make decisions that align with your values, and pursue your true passions. Authenticity can seem scarce in a world dominated by social media. We often desire just to fit in. When it comes to making a good impression, that’s the last thing you want to do, though. Interviewers, for one, are more likely to remember the person who stands out over the person who meets the status quo.

8.   Do Your Research

This applies more for job interviews than dates, where it could be construed as creepy, but always do your research. If you don’t understand the position you’ve applied for or haven’t read the mission of the company, the interviewer is probably going to notice. Come prepared and ready to answer their questions sufficiently, and bring some of your own inquiries to the table as well.