I once watched the video of an applicant I was screening to interview to join the faculty of a college where I served as provost. A video showing the applicant for the position of professor at the college teaching on any topic of their choice was one of many necessary steps involved in the screening process.first impressions matter


This particular applicant, whom we’ll call John, submitted his video when our academic coordinator, Steph, was out of the office. Steph usually screened the videos. Without her,  I decided to review John’s video . Within just 5 seconds of the video, I paused the video and sent Steph a text message telling her not to bother with working any further on John’s application. I took me just 5 seconds to disqualify John. In just 5 seconds, I knew he wasn’t someone I wanted to hire. I tried to push myself to watch the video further. And I did. But the impression I had five seconds into it didn’t change after five minutes of watching the video. It  only got strengthened.

First impressions matter!

In the past, I’ve had the privilege of  interviewing many people to hire for various organizations that I’ve led. Recently, I’ve also had the opportunity to interview many very accomplished professionals applying for positions into a program that I am affiliated with. After doing this for a while, it dawned on me that many times I make my impression of the candidate within the very first five seconds of meeting them.

Within the first few seconds, I can usually tell if I like the applicant or not. In spite of that, I usually make an effort to get to know the person more.  I try not to overly rely on my intuition at the expense of logic. Yet, there is usually some negative inertia that they have to overcome.

Many people have noted that I am a good judge of character. But, I don’t think it’s all about being a good judge of character. I think that first impressions matter tremendously. Within seconds of meeting someone, research has shown that most people form an opinion of you. I’m not the only one who does that. We are created like that. We are endowed with the ability to form quick impressions because in the past when our ancestors lived in a very brutal world, you had to discern people and the world around you quickly to know if you are safe around them or not. People who couldn’t do that got killed quickly and their gene pool was lost. The ability to discern quickly is a very adaptive trait to have.

Think about first impressions with every relationship that you have with other people. From dating relationship to employment relationship to interviewing for a position at a school, first impressions matter.

Why should first impressions be important to you?

Your first impression will open the door for you. Your first impression will give you the chance to be taken seriously. It will give you the chance to be looked at twice. We each have a message to impact others with. Without a good first impression, we will lose the chance to get a fair hearing. We won’t be able to make our case before an attentive audience but an audience that is sleeping and nodding because they are not interested. If you are giving a speech, for example, the first sentence you make will determine whether people will lean in, open their ears, and focus on you or they will zone out and start flipping through their phones.

And it’s right for people not to give us a fair hearing if we have a bad first impression. Why? Because first, people are busy and need to judge quickly. Second, because we are genetically made that way. Third, because if I look like a fake and smell like a fake, then I’m probably a fake. As such, making quick judgments often helps people stay away from fakes.

Take advantage of first impressions

My advise? Give your 100% best to everything you do, especially when you just meet someone. Your first impression should be stellar so as to make people take you seriously from the first moment they meet you.


What has your experience been with with the idea of first impressions? Share below.