Real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran has been a judge the ABC hit show "Shark Tank" for more than nine seasons. And having invested millions of dollars in startups out of the hundreds of pitches she's seen on the show, Corcoran knows a lot about the power of first impressions.
"Whether or not a person likes you is going to be decided within the first five or six seconds of your meeting them. It's not fair, but assumptions are made within seconds about our intelligence, sophistication and abilities," she said in a blog post.
In fact, Corcoran recalled a time she hired someone on the spot — all because of a good first impression.
At the time, Corcoran had a very small office with a staff of less than seven people: "When you walk inside, you're standing in the middle of all the action, with everybody surrounding you," she noted.
It was a rainy day, and the candidate had arrived early for his interview, which Corcoran saw as "a big plus." Realizing that he had some time to spare, he said to Corcoran's assistant, "I'm here for an appointment with Mrs. Corcoran. Would you rather I wait outside?"
Corcoran was both shocked and pleased.
"Outside? But it was raining outside! Here's this guy who walked into my intimate office, realized he may be interrupting us, and acted on it immediately so that we would not be inconvenienced — even though he already had the appointment," she said.
Almost instantly, he landed the job. "All it took was about five or six seconds for me to make my decision," Corcoran said, adding that she was simply amazed by the fact that he was super polished, polite and thought carefully about how he came across to others.
In short, he displayed all the qualities that make a great first impression, and it paid off.
In the blog post, Corcoran also elaborated on her four rules to making a good first impression:
- Have good posture: A hunched posture is a sign of low confidence, and that's not going to get you hired — at least not by Corcoran. She suggests standing tall with your stomach in, shoulders back, knees flexed and arms hanging naturally down the sides of your body.
- Make eye contact: "Eyes are the windows to the soul, and our eyes were created in order to connect with others," Corcoran said. (Do be careful, however, as there is such a thing as too much eye contact. Psychologists have identified that the length of eye contact time most people feel comfortable with is about three seconds at a time.)
- Look the part: Dress for the results you want. It will increase your credibility points.
- Communicate clearly: If you're passionate about whatever you're talking about, this part will be easy. If you aren't, Corcoran warns that you'll get asked "50,000 questions....and you're going to come up empty."
Making the best first impression isn't that complicated. It simply takes practice, awareness and determination. As Corcoran reminds us, "you never get a second chance," so make it count.
Tom Popomaronis is a commerce expert and proud Baltimore native. Currently, he is the Senior Director of Product Innovation at the Hawkins Group. His work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company and The Washington Post. In 2014, he was named one of the "40 Under 40" by the Baltimore Business Journal.
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