5 Ways to Make a Great First Impression

By Haley Prentice Modified on August 14, 2019

You only get one chance!

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A woman and man shake hands, amicably concluding an agreement.

Did you know it takes an average of only six seconds to make an initial judgement of someone? That's a scary thought, especially when you're preparing for a job interview or your first day of class. Making a strong first impression can be hard, so we've compiled 5 ways to present your most polished self.

Arrive Early

Being late doesn't look good, no matter the situation. Plan your route the night before your meeting and have your outfit selected. Ensure any variables that could make you late are considered beforehand. Give yourself extra time for traffic delays or other issues that could slow your commute. Arriving 20 or 30 minutes early allows you time to find the location, calm any jangled nerves and get yourself into the right headspace. Nothing feels worse than running late and showing up rushed and unprepared — so plan ahead!

Dress to Impress

Try your best to look the part. Always opt to be overdressed rather than underdressed, but be sure your outfit matches the occasion. "Professional" looks different if you're meeting someone in their office versus a coffee shop. Show up well-groomed with your clothes ironed to show off the best representation of who you are. Remember that old classic: dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Confidence is Everything

There's a fine line between self-assurance and arrogance. Demonstrate that you deserve to be in the room. A genuine smile lets others know you're both confident and engaged, which helps others in turn to feel more comfortable. As a bonus, you'll lower your stress hormones! Present yourself as a positive person and give whomever you're meeting with a reason to listen. Stand tall, make eye contact, give a firm handshake, and smile.

Avoid Slang & Filler Words

Though we may use slang and filler words in our everyday speech, it's better to err on the side of caution when meeting someone for the first time in a professional setting. Avoid filler words such as "like", "um", and "you know." This can be tough, especially since many of us use them in our daily interactions. Resist the urge to use these terms and try to speak slowly and confidently so that you are aware of what is coming out of your mouth. It's better to take a moment to pause to collect your thoughts than to ramble on.

Be Yourself

Trying to come off as a perfectly polished person is an impossible task, so selling yourself as someone you're not is a total waste of time. People can detect authenticity and often sense if there's something you're trying to hide. Maybe don't tell stories of your wild weekend parties, but it's good to be honest about your interests, job history, and personality. Don't expect that you will immediately click with everyone, though, and that's okay. As long as you try to be the best version of yourself, and you treat everyone with kindness and respect, people will appreciate you.

Now go out there and make your mark!