The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you make a great first impression at work?” is written by Gloria Basem, chief people officer of MediaMath.
For good or ill, humans often make snap judgments. We place a lot of stock in preparedness, remembering someone’s name, attire, posture, firm handshakes, tone of voice, and word choice. These are important, but to really make a successful first impression on someone, you should treat the initial meeting as the beginning of a relationship.
Here are a few ways to start off on the right foot:
When it comes to first impressions, asking is more important than telling. Interviewers and clients want to know that you’ve spent time learning about the company, but they also want to tell you about their company. Even if you believe you know the situation, asking them to tell you about the company’s history, culture, challenges, and opportunities will help you learn more, as each person has a unique perspective on the situation. In taking this approach, you’ll make them feel special and they’ll trust you more.
Find a connection
Before meeting someone new, research them on LinkedIn. Past companies and alma maters can provide a number of conversation starters. But be careful about referencing people in common until you know the nature of the relationship they may have with that person.
When meeting someone in their office, look for visual cues to help build a connection. I always look for photos, children’s drawings, unique décor, and books we may have both read. While the person leading the conversation is often responsible for creating the small talk before the discussion, you can help take the pressure off and therefore establish a good rapport.
When it comes time to share information about your own experiences, tell concise stories that demonstrate how you would handle similar situations in the future. Telling great stories can help others relate to you and your thought process. Try to include humor to make your stories more engaging.
Never underestimate how important it is to smile and project friendliness and optimism to everyone you meet. If you talk negatively about past colleagues or employers, people will worry that you’ll do the same about them someday. Furthermore, people are attracted to those with a can-do attitude. If you’re going to be working with them every day, they’ll want to know that you’re a positive presence in the workplace.
Don’t talk about your old job
Interviewers certainly want to know what you have done in the past, but your first day is not the time to tell people how you did things at your old company. That said, make sure to share any lessons learned from your old job that are applicable to your new one. If you take the right approach, your new colleagues will feel like you’re invested in your new company.