May 12, 2014

    Making the right impression starts with grooming

    THIRTY seconds. That is all it takes to make a great first impression.

    According to research by Professor Albert Mehribian at the University of California,

    Los Angeles, upon meeting someone for the first time, we form an opinion of them within the first 30 seconds.

    While some of that opinion is based on what they say, the majority (55 per cent) is shaped by their appearance.

    No doubt, clothes play an important role in appearance, but it is often personal grooming and hygiene that make the biggest impression.

    In the business world, the top personal grooming issues that garner attention and complaints are hair (especially body hair), dental hygiene, scent, and hands and nails.

    Poor grooming detracts from what you have to say and can impede your ability to build relationships.

    Here are tips for making the right first impression.



    Keep your hair neatly trimmed and arranged. If you have severe hair loss, consider shaving your head or cutting your hair short.

    Body hair should be trimmed so it does not appear above your collar or below your sleeves.

    If you are wearing an open-collared shirt, chest hair should be groomed so it does not stick out.

    Facial hair, including ear and nostril hair, should be neatly trimmed.

    Eyebrows should be neatly trimmed.


    Keep hair neatly styled and clean. Avoid dramatic or severe styles that can be distracting or project an unprofessional image.

    If you dye your hair, keep up with maintenance.

    Eyebrows should be neatly trimmed and shaped.

    Be aware of any facial hair issues and take care of them as needed.


    Always maintain fresh breath.

    Avoid foods with strong odours such as coffee and onions.

    Use mints or a breath spray after meals and before meetings.

    Avoid looking like a cow - never chew chewing gum in the workplace.

    Use whitening toothpaste or invest in a bleaching system to ensure a bright and welcoming smile.


    Always use deodorant and a strong antiperspirant.

    Keep deodorant or body wipes in your office or workspace.

    If you perspire heavily, keep an extra blouse or shirt in your office so you can freshen up as needed.

    Avoid over-scenting with cologne or perfume (especially to mask body odour). Over-scenting can be just as offensive as unpleasant body odour.


    Keep nails neatly trimmed, filed and clean at all times.

    Do not grow fingernails to a length that is distracting or not in sync with contemporary culture.

    Women should wear a neutral shade of nail polish and avoid using embellishments.

    If you're "tough on your hands" and they tend to look calloused, keep moisturiser on-hand so your hands are not abrasive when shaking hands.


    Unless you work in a tattoo parlour or belong to a "garage band", tattoos should be covered and facial jewellery should be removed at work.

    If you are new on the job, ask if there are workplace policies regarding appropriate attire, facial jewellery, tattoos and other grooming protocol.

    Your appearance is important not only in making the right first impression, but in building long-term relations that rely on mutual respect and understanding.

    By following these simple rules, you will be one step closer to building solid business relationships and (whatever our profession) having the most professional appearance possible.


    The writer, Pamela Eyring, is the owner and president of The Protocol School of Washington, which provides professional business etiquette and international protocol training.