Saturday, March 22, 2008

Be Impressive! Make a Strong First Impression

How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less

by Nicholas Boothman

Why Likability Works

If people like you, they feel natural and comfortable around you. They will give you their attention and happily open up for you. They will also be more likely to help you get an interview with their bank and even "push" you through the interview process by strongly recommending you to their peers.

Likability has something to do with how you look but a lot more to do with how you make people feel. In your interviews, come across excited and ready to learn. Don't act cocky or like you already know everything. This is a selfish attitude, which might make you "feel good" but it makes everyone else shut done and not want to help you.

Likable people give loud and clear signals of their willingness to be sociable; they reveal that their public communication channels are open. Embedded in these signals is evidence of self-confidence, sincerity and trust. Likable people expose a warm, easygoing public face with an outgoing radiance that states, "I am ready to connect. I am open for business." They are welcoming and friendly, and they get other people's attention. Be prepared and you will be confident. Confidence is found in preparedness.

Why 90 Seconds?

"Time is precious."
"Time costs money."
"Don't waste my time."

We budget our time, make it stand still, slow it down or speed it up, lose sense of it and distort it; we even buy time-saving devices. Yet time is one of the few things we can't save -- it is forever unfolding.

Instinctively, we assess, undress and best-guess each other. And if we can't present ourselves fast and favorably, we run the risk of being politely, or impolitely, passed over. This is why it is so critical to have a professional resume and to be prepared to make the best first impression possible.

The second reason for establishing likability in 90 seconds or less has to do with the human attention span. Believe it or not, the attention span of the average person is about 30 seconds! The attention span on Wall Street is even less! People have a lot to do, are tired from working 90+ hours per week, and frankly do not necessarily care if they like you or if you get a job with them. It's not their problem, it's yours! This is why you need to succeed in the first 90 seconds.

You have 90 seconds to make a strong impression in the interview. Look good and be prepared to impress people with your resume and background by having a well thought out and practiced initial story.

Face-to-Face Communication

It's not enough to command the other person's attention. You must also be able to hold on to it long enough to deliver your message or intention. You will capture attention with your likability, but you will HOLD ON TO IT with the quality of rapport you establish:
  1. Your presence (ie. What you look like and how you move)

  2. Your attitude (ie. What you say, how you say it and how interesting you are)

  3. How you make people feel

First Impressions

There are three basic parts to connecting with other people:
  1. Meeting

  2. Establishing Rapport

  3. Communicating

These three parts happen quickly and tend to overlap and blend into each other.

1. The Meeting

    If you make the right first impression during the first three or four seconds of a new meeting, you create an awareness that you are sincere, safe, and trustworthy and the opportunity to go further and create rapport will present itself.

    The Greeting

    The following 5 parts constitute a greeting. Do this every time you meet someone, whether for an informational interview, cocktail party, actual interview, etc... The first thing you should do are the following 5 things. Memorize this and see success!!

    Open - Eye - Beam - Hi! - Lean (Memorize this and use it!!)

    Open. The first part of the greeting is to open your attitude and your body. For this to work successfully, you must have already decided on a positive attitude that's right for you. This is the time to really feel and be aware of it. Check to see if that your body language is open. If you have the right attitude, this should take care of itself.

    Key: Keep your heart aimed directly at the person you are meeting. Do not cover your heart with your hands or arms and, when possible, unbutton your jacket or coat.

    Eye. The second part of the greeting involves your eyes. Be first with eye contact. Look this new person directly in the eye. Let your eyes reflect your positive attitude. To state the obvious: eye contact is real contact!

    Tip: Get used to really looking at other people's eyes. When you are watching TV one evening, note the eye color of as many people as possible and say the name of the eye color to yourself. The next day, do the same with every person you meet, looking him or her straight in the eye.

    *This is a creepy picture!

    Beam. This part is closely related to eye contact. Beam! Be the first to smile. Let your smile reflect your attitude.

    Now you've gained the other person's attention through your open body language, your eye contact and your beaming smile. What that person is picking up subconsciously is an impression not of some grinning, gawking fool (though you may briefly fear you look like one!) but of someone who is completely sincere.

    Hi! Whether it's "Hi!" or "Hello!" or even "Yo!" say it with pleasing tonality and attach your own name to it ("Hi! I'm Dave"). As with the smile and the eye contact, be the first to identify yourself. It is at this point, and within only a few seconds, that you are in a position to gather tons of free information about the person you are meeting - information you can put to good use later in your conversation.

    Take the lead. Extend your hand to the other person, and if it's convenient find a way to say his or her name two or three times to help fix it in memory. Not "Steve, Steve, Steve, nice to meet you" but "Steve. Great to meet you, Steve!"

    Lean. The final part of introducing yourself is the "lean." This action can be an almost imperceptible forward tilt to very subtly indicate your interest and openness as you begin to "synchronize" the person you've just met.

    Tip: When you fist meet a person lean in towards them. Don't crowd them and get uncomfortably close, but don't shy away either. When you interview, sit on the edge of your seat and lean forward. This position is very engaging and interesting. It's a small action that makes a big difference.

2. Establishing Rapport

    As you meet and greet new people, your ability to establish rapport will depend on four things: your attitude, your ability to "synchronize" certain aspects of behavior like body language and voice tone, your conversation skills and your ability to discover which sense (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic) the other person relies on most.


      Body Language - Body language accounts for 55% of our communication. If you get nothing else out of this book but the ability to synchronize other people's body language, you'll be miles ahead of where you were last month.

      1. Particular gestures. Hand and arm movements are especially easy and natural to synchronize by matching and mirroring. Some folks raise their shoulders when they talk; others wave their hands around as they express themselves. Do whatever they do. If you find it uncomfortable at first, then go at it a little at a time until with practice you become an expert synchronizer.

      2. Body posture. Overall posture is known as the attitude of the body. It shows how people present themselves and is a good indicator of emotional state. That is why we sometimes refer to it as "adopting a posture." When you can accurately adopt a person's posture, you can get a fair idea of how he or she feels.

      3. Overall body movements. Whether it's a job interview or striking up a conversation at the museum fund-raiser, observe the person's overall body movements, then gently mirror or match them. If he has a leg crossed, then cross a leg.; if he's leaning against the grand piano, do it too. If she's sitting sideways on the banquette, sit side ways; if she's standing with her hands on her hips, do the same. Body movements like leaning, walking, and turning are easily synchronized

      4. Head tilts and nods. These are the simplest movements to synchronize. Fashion photographers know that most of the "feel" of a terrific cover shot comes from the "innuendo" created by subtle tilts and nods of the head. Most good physicians and therapists find that they synchronize tilts and nods without giving it a second thought. It says "I hear you, I see what you're saying and I feel for you."

      5. Facial expressions. Along with tilts and nods, synchronized facial expressions show agreement and understanding. They come naturally. When he smiles at you, your natural inclination is to smile back. When she shows wide-eyed surprise, give it back to her. Look around at the next luncheon or dinner you attend, and notice how those with the deepest rapport are doing it all the time.

      6. Breathing. Pay attention to breathing. Is it fast or slow? Is it high in the chest, low in the chest or from the abdomen? You can usually tell how people are breathing by watching their shoulders or the folds in their clothing. Synchronizing their breathing can be soothing and comforting to them.

      7. Rhythms. The same rule applies for anything rhythmic. If she taps her foot, tap your pencil; if he nods his head, pat your thigh. In the right circumstances and with judicious application, this works well as long as it is beyond conscious awareness.

      Voice - Voice accounts for 38% of face-to-face communication. It reflects how a person is feeling; in other words, his or her attitude. People who are confused will sound confused, and people with a curious attitude will sound curious. You can learn to synchronize these sounds.

      1. Tone. Notice the emotions conveyed by the tone of voice. Tune in to these emotions, get a feel for them and use the same tone.

      2. Volume. Does the other person speak in a quiet voice or in a loud voice? The value of synchronizing volume is not so much in doing it, but more in what can happen if you don't do it. If you are naturally loud and excitable and you meet someone who is more soft-spoken and reserved, it goes without saying that the other person would feel much more at ease with someone who spoke in the same tender tones. Conversely, a jovial, back-slapping loudmouth would surely find lots of common ground with someone who radiated a comparable degree of exuberance.

      3. Speed. Does the other person speak quickly or slowly? A thoughtful, slow-speaking individual can be completely unsettled or flummoxed by a speed talker, just as much as a slow, ponderous talker can drive a quick thinker to the point of distraction.

      4. Pitch. Does the voice go up and down? Voice pitch is one way to change someone's energy level. When you raise pitch and volume, you become more excited. When you lower them, you become calmer, right down to the intimacy of a whisper.

      5. Rhythm. Is the voice flowing or disjointed? Some people have a melodic way of speaking, while others have a more pragmatic, methodical output.

3. Communicating

    Richard Bandler and John Grinder created an effective definition: "The meaning of communication lies in the response it gets."

    This is simple, and brilliant, because it means that it's 100% up to you whether or not your own communication succeeds. After all, you are the one with a message to deliver or a goal to achieve (Receive a job offer), and you are the one with the responsibility to make it happen.

    The formula for effective communication has three distinct parts:

    Know what you want. Formulate your intention in the affirmative and preferably present tense. For example, "I want to be a 2008 full-time investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs." Fill your imagination with what that job will look, sound, feel, smell, and taste like with you in it and you will know when you have it. This is a much different statement then "I want to do investing" or "I don't want to be a trader."

    Find out what you are getting. Get feedback. Have people check your resume and practice interviewing with friends and professionals. Then have people what you are doing well and what you can improve on.

    Change what you do until you get what you want. Design a plan and follow through with it: "I will go to NYC 3 different times and meet with anyone and everyone I can." Do it and get more feedback from each person you meet with. Redesign if necessary, and do it again with more feedback. Repeat the cycle - redesign - get feedback - until you get what you want: A full-time analyst position or a summer internship with JPMorgan in 2008.

This is just a snippet of the book, with some adaptations made by me on how to specifically apply these principles when interviewing for a position in investment banking. I strongly recommend you buy this book or check it out from your local library, especially if you found this blog post interesting. There is much more great information on how to build rapport, communicate effectively and "synchronize" with people in the book.

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1 comment:

Cory said...

Awesome post Dave. I picked this book up at the library last week and it's great. No one teaches you in school how to be likable, make a good impression, and communicate with others. Obviously most people grasp a rudimentary understanding of these skills, but the fact that they can be improved upon and developed is something the average person is not aware of. The most important asset in your career is how well you communicate with others!