How do you make a good impression? Whether it’s for a job interview, making new friends, or a date, before you’ve even opened your mouth, many people have already made a judgement on you. That’s not pessimism; according to various studies, people make up their minds about you in seconds. So, if you’ve got a minimal amount of time to make an impact, how do you ensure you make the right impression?
I turned to professor Carolyn Mair of Psychology.Fashion on what to wear (and what not to wear) in any kind of situation where you’re meeting people for the first time. While she points out that you always have to consider the context, there are some key things everyone can do. So from job interviews to dating, these tips can apply for various circumstances…
“There is research for job interviews that say don’t wear red. Those who did tended to not get the job,” advises Mair. “Of course, it depends what job you’re going for, but I would really recommend that you do your homework and find out what people wear at the company you’re interviewing with.” Instead, says Mair, you should opt for traditional work-type colours, so navy, royal blue, grey and black. But, for example, if you’re going for a job in advertising, then you might want a burst of colour to show you’re creative. Just don’t sacrifice professionalism.
But what about other, non-job interview circumstances? “You still want people to see you as you, so make sure you have a bit of personality showing through, such as a bold accessory, which is especially important when making new friends or in a dating situation.”
We can all be prone to scruffiness, and while it’s fine when grabbing a pint of milk from the local shop, it’s not a good look in any situation where you’re trying to make a good first impression. Mair advises that you have “clean shoes and hair looking nice,” plus an all-round groomed look to ensure you look like you care.
“I’m really bad getting my nails done, but I feel 100% different when I do. It doesn’t matter about the length—it’s just important to show that you love yourself,” says Mair. “The groomed look is not about a photo-ready face but looking like you cared about yourself, and the nails are part of that.”
However, Mair does point out that, unfortunately, people still carry prejudices when it comes to long, red nails, as it can have bad connotations for a prospective employer or friend. That said, black is okay, as are nude colours (think the Kate Middleton nude mani).
“I was asked to write something recently on glasses and how they affect people’s impressions of others. According to a study in 1949, people were rated as more intelligent who wore glasses,” reveals Mair. That said, she also points out that glasses like those worn by Iris Apfel say something completely different: “It says that she wants attention and that she’s her own woman. So you’ve got to tread the line between the two.”
“Grey is seen as a more passive colour, but it’s been very fashionable for a while now. It really says that you don’t want attention drawn to you,” says Mair. However, she advises pairing it with red shoes or an orange bag to subtly draw attention to yourself.
“This depends on the person, but if you wear accessories and you like big bracelets or rings, then you should wear them, definitely. It’s really important to be yourself. But if you don’t usually, then you might be fiddling with it all night and feel awkward, and that might draw attention that you don’t want,” says Mair.
“Every extra frill and button will draw attention away from what you’re saying. If we want people to attend to what we’re saying, then minimalist is best,” says Mair.
Ready to test things out? See for yourself and implement Mair’s advice at your next interview.