Making a good impression: The Charlesworth Knowledge ten-second rule

Making a good impression in an interview, or summoning the courage to talk to a senior colleague at a research conference, can be a difficult and daunting prospect. How can you be sure to make the best possible impression? What can you say? Imagine you have just a few seconds to start the conversation; good (and bad) impressions are formed by other people very, very quickly, and they often stick. What techniques can you use to ensure that you make the best impression possible in these situations? Our Charlesworth Knowledge training courses can help: we can enable you to overcome the nerves that come naturally when you suddenly find yourself in these situations, and teach you some tricks and tips to help ensure you make the best possible first impression on colleagues.


The first key thing to bear in mind is that research has shown that people actually think more clearly when they are in a good mood – a positive frame of mind. Indeed, in some interviews I’ve watched with professional communicators (hostage negiotiators, for example) they actually make the claim that you will think up to 30% more clearly when you are in a positive mood. Remember to smile when you first meet someone and try to approach each conversation with a positive mindset; this has been found to actually trigger a chemical change in the other person.


The other really important thing to think about when approaching interactions with other people, especially in a professional setting, is that everyone you deal with will initially think to themselves ‘how is this person going to help me?’ This means that you can help the situation to develop in a positive direction by trying to think about the other person’s position and how you can help them; try to imagine what they would want to gain from interacting with you.


Also, please don’t be afraid of failure when meeting someone for the first time, and never be afraid to say ‘no’ to someone if they ask you to do something or to help them in some way and you are unable to do so. It’s key to remember that people don’t say ‘no’ enough, and that this is actually always just the start of a conversation, not the end. If you say ‘no’ to someone then this can potentially have the effect of putting them at ease, allowing them to relax; afterwards, you’ll find the conversation to be easier and freer. Professional communication coaches will tell you that ‘yes can be a trap’; you’ve either confirmed something or committed to something with your counterpart and this can have the effect of making another person tense. Try to use phrases like ‘I agree’, or ‘that’s right’, instead. Give this approach a go and see if it works next time you have a conversation with a colleague.


The absolutely key, critical, never-to-be-forgotten aspect of conversations and interactions with colleagues is to always try to leave people thinking ‘I’d like to deal with that person again in the future’. Keep in mind that even if you cannot deliver what the other person wants at that particular moment, or even if the interaction was just a casual conversation, try to always be empathetic, kind, and positive with others. These techniques will ensure that a person will want to meet with you again; they will want to talk to you when you next have the chance to meet. Good things will happen in your career if you maintain this mindset in your interactions with colleagues.


Charlesworth Knowledge workshops (booked via institutions) and other training materials have been specifically developed to help early-career researchers enhance their potential as academics. Making a good impression on senior colleagues is an essential skill to develop. Why not get in touch with our team for more information?


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