Thirty seconds. That’s all it takes to make a great first impression.
According to research by Albert Mehribian, professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, upon meeting someone for the first time we form an opinion of them within the first 30 seconds.
While some of that opinion is based on what they say, the majority (55 percent) is shaped by their appearance. No doubt wardrobe plays an important role in appearance, but it’s often personal grooming (and hygiene) that make the biggest impression.
In the business world, the top personal grooming issues that garner attention (and complaints) are hair (especially body hair), dental hygiene, scent, and hands and nails. Poor grooming detracts from what you have to say and can impede your ability to build relationships with others.
Here are tips for making sure the first impression you make is the right one.
- Keep your hair neatly trimmed and arranged. If you have severe hair loss, consider shaving your head or cutting your hair short.
- Body hair should be trimmed so it doesn’t appear above your collar or below your sleeves. If you’re wearing an open collar shirt, chest hair should be groomed so it doesn’t stick out.
- Facial hair (including ear and nostril hair) should be neatly trimmed.
- Eyebrows (as in “two” not “one”) should be neatly trimmed.
- Keep hair neatly styled and clean. Avoid dramatic or severe styles that can be distracting or can project an unprofessional image.
- If you color your hair, keep up with maintenance.
- Eyebrows should be neatly trimmed and shaped.
- Be aware of any facial hair issues and take care of them as needed.
- Always maintain fresh breath.
- Avoid foods with strong odors such as coffee and onions.
- Use mints or a breath spray after meals and before meetings.
- Avoid looking like a cow — never chew chewing gum in the workplace.
- Use whitening toothpaste or invest in a bleaching system to ensure a bright and welcoming smile.
- Always use deodorant and a strong antiperspirant.
- Keep deodorant or body wipes in your office or workspace.
- If you perspire heavily, keep an extra blouse or shirt in your office so you can freshen up as needed.
- Avoid over-scenting with cologne or perfume (especially to mask body odors). Over-scenting can be just as offensive as unpleasant body odor.
Hands and Fingernails
- Keep nails neatly trimmed, filed, and clean at all time.
- Don’t grow fingernails to a length that’s distracting or not in synch with contemporary culture.
- Women should wear a neutral shade of nail polish and avoid using embellishments.
- If you’re “tough on your hands,” and they tend to look calloused, keep moisturizer on-hand so your hands are not abrasive when shaking hands.
Other 9-5 Grooming Tips
- Unless you work in a tattoo parlor or belong to a “garage band,” tattoos should be covered and facial jewelry should be removed at work.
- If you’re new on the job, ask if there are workplace policies regarding appropriate attire, facial jewelry, tattoos and other grooming protocol.
Your appearance is important not only in making the right first impression but in building long-term relations that rely upon mutual respect and understanding. By following these simple rules you’ll be one step closer to building solid business relationships and (whatever our profession) having the most professional appearance possible.
(Pamela Eyring is the owner and president of The Protocol School of Washington® (PSOW), which provides professional business etiquette and international protocol training. Founded in 1988, PSOW is the only school of its kind in the U.S. to become accredited. Any opinions expressed are her own. PSOW’s website is: www.psow.edu.)
(Editing by Michael Roddy)