18 July 2019

How to make a great first impression

There’s no second chance to make a first impression, so it pays to get it right – especially at work. Here we look at how both employees and employers can get off to a flying start


Lindsay Harriss

Lindsay Harriss


Career development


There’s no second chance to make a first impression, so it pays to get it right – especially at work. Here we look at how both employees and employers can get off to a flying start

The importance of creating a good first impression, in life and especially in your career, cannot be understated. Indeed, if you want to nail that dream job, it is vital that you make the best first impression possible at interview. However, perhaps a less generally acknowledged fact is that employers need to make a positive first impression too, if they want to attract and retain the best candidates.


Seven seconds for success

It is said that you only have seven seconds to make that all-important great first impression. So, in an interview situation, you really do need to hit the ground running. This can be a daunting prospect, so it is vital to keep calm and carry on. Although the old trick of imagining your interviewers naked might not help you relax, you could try some techniques to boost your confidence before going in, such as breathing exercises or assuming a power pose. Some also swear by using mindfulness – living in the present moment – as a way to manage stress.


And five minutes to make an impact

However, it is not just job candidates who need to create a good first impression – employers have to do so as well if they want to secure the best talent. According to research commissioned by specialist recruiter Robert Half, over a third of job candidates worldwide make a decision about a role within the first five minutes. You’ll also want to create great job adverts, to get relationships with potential employees off to the best start possible.


Dress to impress

Whatever field you work in, making the effort to present yourself well will help you make the best possible first impression, so be sure to dress to impress.

It is also crucial for employers to present their organisation in the best possible light by creating an appealing and authentic employer brand that is consistent across their website, social media channels, and recruitment system.


Honesty is the best policy

For a top first impression at interview, it’s important to be yourself and not pretend to be something you’re not. Although portraying a slightly fictional version of yourself might initially get favourable results, in the long run, any exaggerations or falsehoods will eventually be found out.

Likewise, it is vital that employers give an accurate and honest first impression of their culture, and of the job role, at interview. Painting a picture that doesn’t match up to reality – or to your Glassdoor reviews – will likely backfire and cause the new starter to be unhappy in their role, and may even cause them to leave.


Be organised

Ensuring that you are organised is also crucial for creating a favourable first impression, both for potential employees and employers. Thoroughly preparing for an interview – such as by researching the organisation and its services, and planning your route to the meeting location – will help you to feel more empowered and confident.

Recruiters and employers should be equally well organised. Using modern technology, such as a high-quality HR system, will help you standardise and reliably follow recruitment procedures, and welcome new hires into your company thanks to effective onboarding processes. In fact, organisations that greet new recruits with an organised, fully comprehensive onboarding procedure are 69% more likely to retain that employee for three years, thus saving a great deal of time and money all round.


Let your sense of humour shine through

Finally, there’s nothing like a good sense of humour to really create a favourable first impression, so, for a candidate in an interview, it is a sensible move to let this shine through. Of course, you do need to remain professional, so getting the balance right is key – coming across as the life and soul of the party may be a step too far, while being too serious may make you appear unfriendly.

Candidates will also be assessing whether this is a workplace they will be happy to spend time in, so hiring managers should take a friendly tone and inject a little light-heartedness into the interview where possible.

So, whether you are an employee or an employer, the importance of making a great first impression should never be overlooked. This could make all the difference between success and failure – of your career, or of your organisation – and should give you an edge over your competition.

This article was first published in March 2016. It was updated in July 2019 for freshness, clarity and accuracy.