February 27, 2022

Article at Marco on Authory

Vision impaired: First impressions at work aren’t always correct

Love the new VP of sales? Can’t stand the new marketing specialist? Hopefully, you formed your opinion over time. But probably not. 

"We put much too much faith on our first impressions, especially at work," says Joseph Able, a career coach based in Philadelphia. "We want to believe we have this talent for judging people and the quality of their character right away but the truth is, we put way too much stock in our first impressions. They're probably wrong more often than right."

Granted, Able says some first impressions should be acted on, especially if a person makes you feel unsafe. "I tell people that thinking a person is cocky or a loudmouth or too quiet is one thing. Thinking they're a creep is another," he says. "You never have to apologize for not advancing a relationship with someone who makes you uncomfortable."

Everything in its place

How and where you meet people can have a lot to do with their initial behavior, says Able, so don't be so quick to judge someone for their initial approach. "If you meet someone in the office who is interviewing for a job and they seem quiet and nervous, you might want to remember why they're there -- to get a job. Of course, they're going to be nervous," he says. "If they were super-confident, you might find that to be a deal-breaker as well."

Lisa Del Moral, a recruiter with a focus on pharmaceutical companies, including Gilead Sciences and Eli Lilly, says miscalculated first impressions are just one of the reasons she's not a fan of group interviews. "You bring a candidate in and he or she faces six or seven people, all of whom bring their own biases and values to the table," Del Moral says. "But the problem is that once the interview ends, people are easily swayed. I've seen a manager who really liked someone acquiesce to her director, who didn't like that particular person because she kept adjusting her hair, which the director saw as unnecessary flirting. I've watched candidates get put out of the running because someone in the room had a negative perception than no one else had. But after a quick conversation, everyone tapped into that same negative impression to remove the person from consideration."

Human nature

First impressions might be more reliable if people admitted that they're sometimes off-base. "Think of shows you didn't like or bands you hated when they first came out," Able says. “And now you can’t get enough."

Able says people can throw out similar vibes. "Talk to a teacher about naming their kids," he says. "They'll say no to any name that reminds them of a student who caused problems. People have a bias against certain schools or companies, and they use that bias to make a quick decision on someone."

At the very least, making judgments on schools and companies—however misplaced—may be based on actual or assumed knowledge. Judgment calls on hair color? Not so much. "I once had someone tell me they didn't like me at first because I had jet-black hair, and they didn't trust people with jet-black hair because they usually played the villains in movies," Del Moral says. "Part of me wanted to tell him that my hair wasn't really that color, that I had been coloring it for 10 years because, in reality, it's a mix of gray and dull black, but I didn't bother.

Del Moral says if it wasn't her hair, it would have been her clothes or her voice. "Most people base their first impressions on things that don't matter," she says. "To have an opinion on someone, you have to get to know a little bit about them."

By Marco Buscaglia, Tribune Content Agency
Published in the Chicago Tribune on February 27, 2022