How to make a good first impression

There’s nothing worse than getting off on the wrong foot with colleagues when starting a new job. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to avoid this
by Adelina Adjei

First impressions are important, especially when starting a new job. Aside from the obvious – arrive early, dress to impress and have confident body language – there are other key things to remember.

Watch your speech
Ashira Prossack, international speaker and consultant on millennials, Gen Z and multi-generational workplaces, tells Forbes that when meeting people for the first time, it’s important to speak clearly and with an even tone, not too quiet or too loud. Avoid using slang and be aware of not using filler words. You will seem less professional if you consistently use words such as, ‘um’, ‘like’, ‘you know’ or ‘so’. Simply pause, giving yourself time to think. Avoid being monotone as you could come across as being unmotivated.

Prepare your personal elevator pitch
An article by careers website The Balance Careers suggests having a personal speech prepared for those first meetings. You will likely have to introduce yourself to colleagues and it is important not to fumble through your own introduction. Speaking about your professional background is fine, but try to add something personal (although appropriate for the workplace) and say how excited you are about working at your new company. 

It’s also fine to talk about your achievements. However, according to research by Professor Janina Steinmetz of London’s City University, published in September 2018 in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, listeners really want to know about the hard work you did, rather than the final success story. This creates a better impression.
Informal meetings are important too. If you are making coffee and a colleague comes by or you are standing next to someone waiting for the lift, try to make the first move and introduce yourself.

Ask for advice, and actually take it
The UK-based Association of Business Executives says it’s fine not to know everything when you start a new job. Asking questions shows your interest in the role and the company. However, you must remember what you were told. Write it down if necessary and apply any advice where relevant. We all have previous work habits, but it is important to understand how your new company does things and to be willing to learn its processes. 

Be quick out of the blocks
You may be the new kid on the block, but still come ready to work straight away, even on your first day. According to Jim Joseph, global president of marketing communications agency BCW and a contributor to, clocking up small wins from the start is important. Do not worry how small they are; you must start somewhere. It could be helping a member of your new team to meet a deadline or offering to set up a brainstorming meeting for a new project. You want colleagues to believe in your capabilities and know they can rely on you straight away. At the end of each day, note down your achievements. This will give you confidence as you continue to master your new role.

Don’t bring your problems to work
We all have problems outside of work, but don’t project them on to your team. Alexander Todorov, professor of psychology at Princeton University, tells Time magazine: “If you’re having a good day, you probably look happy and people might be more likely to form a positive impression of you. Alternatively, if you’re having a bad day, you might appear unapproachable.”

Ann Demarais, founder of First Impressions, a New York-based coaching and consulting company, adds: “We sort of scan the world for threats and facial expressions are really primarily processed. On a very deep level, if someone is frowning or looks threatening, we register that as ‘Watch out’.”

Be yourself
It’s important to be genuine, people tend to dislike those who they think are ‘faking it’. Remember to smile when interacting with colleagues, but beware of the cheesy smile. Show your personality. If you are funny, use some humour in your conversations, says Anna Newell Jones, of website Talking about your interests and hobbies, where relevant, is also a great way of showing your personality, adds Newell Jones. “People will be more likely to relate to people who have upbeat personalities,” she says.

Relax a little
Finally, you are bound to be nervous when speaking to colleagues and concerned about what they think of you. It’s easy to be critical of yourself in such situations, but don’t give yourself too hard a time. Research published in September 2018 in the journal of Psychological Science indicates that you probably come across better than you think. Research authors Erica Boothby and Gus Cooney, postdoctoral researchers at Cornell University and Harvard University respectively, claim it is difficult to accurately estimate if people like you after a conversation. “We call this a 'liking gap' and it can hinder our ability to develop new relationships,” study co-author Margaret Clark, Professor of Psychology at Yale University, tells Yale News. 

In one of five studies, participants who didn’t know each other were asked to reflect on conversations they had just had. Ratings showed participants believed their conversation partners’ perception of them was more negative than what their partners actually thought. “They seem to be too wrapped up in their own worries about what they should say or did say to see signals of others' liking for them, which observers of the conservations see right away,” says Clark.

The moral of the research? You’re probably making a better first impression than you think. However, to be on the safe side, follow the simple rules above.
Published: 11 Jan 2019
  • Career Development
  • The Review
  • Career advice

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