By Jenna Goudreau
Do not underestimate a first impression. According to 2011 research by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, people assess your competence and trustworthiness in a quarter of a second 250 milliseconds–based solely on how you look. “Appearance is extraordinarily powerful because it’s the first filter,” says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the founding president of the Center for Talent Innovation CTI in New York. “So how do you look the part?” According to her new year-long study of over 4,000 college-educated professionals and 268 senior executives, conducted by CTI and in partnership with Marie Claire magazine, looking like a leader is the first step to becoming one. In order to portray “executive presence,” superiors must perceive you as having gravitas, excellent communication skills and a polished appearance. While appearance was deemed less important than gravitas and communication skills, it’s the very first thing people see. So a major grooming mistake can instantly undermine your chances of showing just how good you really are. From the CTI researchers’ interviews with high-level leaders, these emerged as the top seven physical traits that you’re being judged on.
No. 1: Grooming
According to the research, good grooming habits—looking “polished” or “pulled together”—is a professional’s most important physical asset.