First Impressions




look (2) doorman all the time
gesture farewell give you a hand (2)
chance pleasant come across (2)
foe count (3) impression
decide reinforce subconsciously
speed point (3) incredible
effect draw (2) anchor (2)
way stuff (3) judgement
chance disregard indication
boss primacy confidence
seem applicant competent
support consider from then on
sample attractive classic (2)
likely light (3) hypothesis
halo observe conclusion
verify strategy disciplined
suit conclude supposition
lead (2) based on assessment
overall respond self-fulfilling prophecy
fulfill prophecy in other words
in turn in person accordingly
confirm live up to expectation
test (2) shape (2) participant
within effective subsequently
assume based on workshop (2)
process substance back it up
benefit apply (2) particular
smile prepare subject (4)


Video: First Impressions



Matthias Schilling needs to look perfect all the time. He works as a doorman in one of Berlin’s top hotels.

Matthias Schilling, Doorman, Adlon Hotel, Berlin: “Welcome to the Adlon. Can I give you a hand?

Every guest gets a warm welcome. And an equally warm farewell. Every gesture needs to come across just right.

Matthias Schilling, Doorman, Hotel Adlon: “As the doorman, I’m the first point of contact for our guests. I create the first impression.”

And as we all know, first impressions count, whether it’s with hotel guests or corporate customers.

Every day we create and receive countless first impressions.

Is this person nice or unpleasant, friend or foe?

We usually draw such conclusions subconsciously, and at incredible speed.

More often than not, people don’t get a second chance.

Hans-Peter ERB, Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg: “We call this the “primacy effect”. It basically provides an anchor at that moment for the person making the judgment. And it affects the way they process everything else afterwards.”

One classic example: a man arrives for a job interview. Because of his attractive appearance, the boss decides in no more than seven seconds that this applicant seems competent.

From then on, he begins to subconsciously looking for more information that supports his hypothesis. All indications that might speak against it, he simply disregards.

So if the applicant provides samples of his work, the boss is more likely to view them in a more positive light, then samples from another applicant that he doesn’t consider competent.

That impression is then reinforced by the so-called “halo effect”. Based on the qualities he’s observed, the boss begins to assume the applicant has other qualities without verifying his supposition.

So based on the applicant’s attractive appearance, glasses and suit, he might conclude this applicant is disciplined. In this way, his impression is reinforced, that leads to a positive assessment overall, which in turn has another interesting effect.

Hans-Peter ERB, Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg: “It turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, if someone feels the boss has confidence in them, they actually respond accordingly. They’re much more likely to live up to expectations.”

So if a boss believes a particular employee is competent, that’s likely to improve that employee’s performance.

A new study from the US has confirmed how powerful first impressions can be.

In it, test participants were shown photographs, and asked to assess the people pictured. Even when they subsequently met the subjects in person, their first impressions, based on the photos remained largely unchanged.

Then it’s possible for people to learn how to make a good first impression. Here in Berlin, we’ve come to a workshop where participants are being taught how to prepare for job interviews.

But even though first impressions do count in an interview situation, they’re not everything,

David Rupprecht, Coach at Job Point, Berlin: “It’s not just your personal appearance, you then need to back that up by being well-prepared for the interview and knowing your stuff. You can make a good first impression, but then if the interviewer realizes there is no substance there, it doesn’t really benefit you that much.

The same applies for services: doorman Matthias Schilling starts shaping guests’ experience of the hotel immediately, with a simple, but effective, strategy:

Matthias Schilling, Doorman, Adlon Hotel, Berlin: “Put on a friendly face and a smile that makes them feel welcome.”


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1. A doorman’s job at a hotel is not important; they are just unskilled laborers. True or false? Do they have to dress and behave a certain way?

2. Do first impressions, appearance and body language only apply at work?

3. How long does it take for people to make first impressions on others?

4. Can first impressions give and reinforce a positive (or negative) feedback loop?

5. Describe the study conducted in the United States.

6. First impressions can “blind” or cloud a person’s judgment. Is this right or wrong? Is it easy, not easy, difficult, very difficult or impossible to change a person’s first impression?

7. And so people should only concentrate, focus and work on giving perfect, excellent first impression; and disregard everything else. Is this correct or incorrect?
A. I judge others (strangers) on a daily basis. Yes or no? Do first impressions affect your work (meeting applicants, new employees, prospects, clients, partners, vendors)?

B. Can you give examples of your first impressions of others you have seen in the past few days?

C. Are your first impressions usually correct? Have people you got to know better matched your first impression of them?

D. Have you changed the way you initially felt about someone after you got to know them better? Was it for the better or the worse?

E. First impressions are not good and reliable (“You should never judge a book by its cover”). What do you think?

F. What might happen in the future?

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