In "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People," Stephen Covey suggests always beginning with the end in mind. Covey means that in order to get somewhere—anywhere—successfully, you have to know where you are trying to go. Artists have a vision for what their painting will look like before they pick up their brush. Pilots file a flight plan before they take off. Golfers use what they call good "course management." And you have to do this before you meet new contacts.
In his book "Blink," Malcolm Gladwell reviews all the fascinating things that can happen in the blink of an eye—the decisions we can make based on our instincts, and how much more accurate these can be than those based on extensive data and study.
Psychological research shows there are some things we just appear to be "pre-wired" to understand in an instant. We quickly decide whether we think a person's personality is warm or cold, open or defensive, or friendly or distant. Our first impressions of people, although not made quite in the blink of an eye, are made in the first few moments of our interactions. These impressions are so important because they can be very challenging to overcome once they’re established. Why? We interpret all new information through the filter of that initial impression.
Additional interactions might help you change other peoples' impressions of you, but a negative first impression limits your chances to have more interactions with them.
Jerker Denrell, a professor at Stanford Business School, has found that when a potential employer forms a negative first impression of you, he or she is much less likely to be willing to have any more interactions with you, reducing your chances to change that impression. In fact, this process can take less than four-and-a-half minutes.
Frank Bernieri at the University of Toledo found that untrained observers watching a videotape of the first 15 seconds of a job interview were often able to accurately predict which applicants received job offers and which didn't. The same can be said for meetings with potential clients and when you first meet your company's CEO.
First impressions mean everything. Envision your end goal, prepare accordingly, and send yourself the right message - the positive impression you make will lead to success!