"When it comes to appearance, how you put yourself together matters more than being conventionally pretty," says Brandy Mychals, author of How to Read a Client from Across the Room (McGraw-Hill, 2012). "A job interview can be over before you even sit down because the person has already made snap judgments."
Some of the ways others come to those opinions aren't what you may expect. Check out these five things people rate you by so you can make that tenth of a second count and wow everyone at first sight.
1. Your feet do the talking:
You can never have too many shoes-and people judge you based on every single pair. In a study published in Journal of Research in Personality, researchers found that people could accurately guess a stranger's age, gender, and income simply by looking at what was on their feet. They also associated certain personality traits with different shoes. More masculine-looking pairs were thought to be worn by less agreeable people, while stylish or attractive shoes were assumed to be donned by rich, conscientious folks. And people rocking those ankle boots that are so in right now came across as aggressive.
2. Cosmetic powers:
Brushing on a little shadow or blush can not only up your attractiveness factor, it can make you appear more confident. In a 2011 study funded by Proctor & Gamble and performed by Harvard University, people said women wearing a little makeup were more likeable, competent, and trustworthy than those with bare faces.
But don't use a heavy hand with that eyeliner: Too much makeup still made women attractive, but they also seemed untrustworthy and dishonest, especially when participants only got a quick glimpse of the woman.
3. Grin and bear it:
Your dentist is about to become your most popular medical practitioner. Earlier this year, Kelton Research conducted a study funded by Invisalign where more than 1,000 people were shown pictures of men and women's teeth. Those with straight smiles were perceived to be happier, smarter, and more successful and popular than those with crooked teeth.
Thirty-eight percent also said crooked choppers would kill the chances of a second date, and almost half said that when two job candidates had the same skills and experience, one with straight teeth would be hired over one with crooked teeth.
4. The clothes make the woman:
While Hillary Rodham Clinton rocks the pantsuit-and certainly nobody would doubt her confidence or competence-showing a little leg (tastefully, of course) may work better for you. Women in skirt suits were thought to earn more money and be more confident than those in pantsuits in a study conducted at the U.K.'s University of Hertfordshire. The researchers say the skirt balances professionalism with attractiveness without being provocative.
Wearing the right outfit can also change your self-perception, researchers at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management found. Students who wore white lab coats while doing a scientific experiment performed better than those in regular clothes.
5. Take up space:
Simply standing tall can speak volumes. According to a 2011 study published in Psychological Science, so-called "posture expansiveness"-where you open up the body and occupy space-not only makes you appear more confident and authoritative, you actually think and act that way. Posture matters even more than your title: It gives you a sense of power, no matter where you line up on the totem pole, researchers say.