We’ve all heard it before — first impressions mean everything. But, what about that moment when you blow your first impression? What now? Is your relationship with the hiring manager, your boss, or the client doomed?
Don’t worry — there are ways to turn around most situations in life, and turning around a bad first impression is one of them. But before you can do that, you have to understand what caused that bad impression of you.
It could be a number of things: piercings or tattoos, an out-of-place joke, or even the manner in which you introduced yourself. Whatever the case, if you’ve found yourself victim to a bad first impression, don’t panic. Here are five ways to turn that bad first impression around:
1. Reassess your appearance.
Did you know that 55 percent of a person’s opinion is determined by physical appearance and 93 percent is based on non-verbal input? Unfortunately, appearances impact first impressions, so spruce up your wardrobe and look as professional as possible while still being “you”. Consider reassessing how you are perceived by others, including your body language. Uncross your arms, make eye contact, and smile a little! You’ll already seem much more inviting.
2. If you made a mistake, apologize and move forward.
Sometimes bad first impressions are caused by genuine mistakes. Perhaps you discussed a touchy subject unknowingly or mistook your new contact for someone else. Simply apologize for your mistake. Send a note after your first meeting, apologizing again to smooth over the situation.
3. If your personality was misjudged, try to show your true character.
Bad first impressions often occur through misinterpretations of your own personality traits. If you’re a generally shy person, that shyness may come off as being rude or inconsiderate. Similarly, a feisty personality may be perceived as overbearing and disrespectful. Whatever the case, try to adjust your responses to balance this personality trait. If you’re shy, smile more and initiate conversation. If you’re too outgoing, take a step back and listen.
4. If you were late or early to a first meeting, be honest as to why.
Being late can truly ruin a first impression. But be honest about why you were late and apologize as soon as possible. If the meeting wasn’t missed, be sure to make the most of your time with your new contact. We’re all busy, so even being too early can throw a wrench in anyone’s day. Always be cognizant and respectful of your contact’s time.
5. When all else fails, avoid overcompensating for flaws.
At the end of the day, you should always be you. Don’t change your personality to overcompensate for a bad first impression. If you’re changing yourself, then forget it! Your new contact may not have been worth your time anyway, and the best advice might be to walk away from the situation.
It’s easy to feel stuck after making a bad first impression. But if you can identify what went wrong, it’s not too difficult to make up for that mistake.
Have you ever made a bad first impression? How did you change that impression?
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.