First impressions matter, but last impressions may matter even more

People are always going on about the importance of first impressions and how you don’t get a second chance to make a good one. But we sometimes overlook the importance of last impressions, which are equally important, and maybe even more so.

Obviously, first impressions are important. There is evidence that in the first few seconds of an encounter people will decide, among other things, whether you’re trustworthy and likeable and whether you’re leadership material. Evidence also suggests that these impressions are hard to change and that Findings show that we’re more likely to remember items at the beginning of a list (primacy effect) and end of a list (recency effect) than items in the middle of a list.

Overall, findings show that we’re more likely to remember items at the beginning of a list (primacy effect) and end of a list (recency effect) than items in the middle of a list.

But research also shows that people will often better remember the last impression than a first one. In one study, participants were presented with two different versions of information about a fictitious person named “Jim.” In one version, Jim’s positive attributes were listed first and his negative attributes listed last. In the other version, this was reversed. The researchers found that, in the short term, what was presented first is more important, but in the long term, what was presented last is more important.

Let’s look at acrimonious breakups as an example. How many times have you heard someone say about an ex-partner, “I don’t know what I ever saw in them”? The bad memories of the end of the relationship are often so much stronger than the good ones. Even when the good times were very good, the bad times, in the end, negate that.

Keep this in mind when on the job hunt.

Here are some ways to make a great last impression.

Gather your belongings in your left hand. This tip came from The Art of Manliness, and I thought it was great. If you do this, you won’t have to fumble with your stuff to give a handshake and will look smooth.

Say “Thank you.” “Thank you” is important and means a lot to people. Most employers will notice if you don’t say “thank you.” Say it more than once.

Offer a firm handshake. Don’t be a limp fish or just let the other person grasp the tips of your fingers like you’re a princess. Squeeze firmly, but not too firmly. You don’t want to hurt someone – especially if they have arthritis or some other condition you might not know about. Don’t hold on to their hand for too long, or it gets awkward. Giving the right kind of handshake can make or break an impression.

Smile. Everyone loves a smile.

Ask the interviewer something about themselves on the way out. If the opportunity presents itself (it won’t always, particularly if you’re being interviewed by more than one person), ask a question on the way out that gets the other person talking about themselves or their interests. Point out the picture of the dog or the bowling trophy on their desk and ask about it. They’ll remember that you took an interest in them, which usually makes people happy.

Say goodbye to everyone. Don’t ignore the receptionist or anyone else on the way out that you spoke to on your way in. Acknowledge everyone, not just the interviewer.

Send a “Thank you” note. A simple note thanking the interviewer for their time and expressing your interest in the position will do. It takes a small amount of time and makes a big difference.

Many people don’t send a “thank you” note or put any extra effort into their last impression. They can’t be bothered, or they think they shouldn’t have to follow up. I’ve heard people say “I thanked them at the interview. Why should I have to do it again?” Well, you don’t have to. But you might not get the job if you don’t.

This is good because if you do put in the extra effort you will stand out.

Last impressions matter. Make them count.

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