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Jul 31

9 ways to make a good first impression on no money

Reading Time: 9 mins


That’s all the time it takes for someone to begin to form an opinion of you.

  • How you’re dressed
  • What you look like
  • How you’re standing

…they’re all processed very quickly. So here are some easy, quick and CHEAP ways to make a great impression at your job interview…


A good first impression

A good first impression can provide a solid basis from which to move forward.

A bad first impression can be unrecoverable.

So whether you’re going for a job interview, going on a date or meeting the dreaded in-laws, it’s very important you make a good first impression.

Luckily for you, we’ve compiled this list of 9 ways to make a good impression – and don’t worry, you won’t need tons of money either.

By the way, see our article here about tone of voice being the underrated key to a great CV. It isn’t about sounding over-confident (many are falling into that trap) but a professional, confident and friendly tone of voice can help you get the interview


1. Arrive on time

professional man in a suit looking at hi wrist watch

It’s a simple one but you’d be surprised at just how many people don’t seem to understand the importance of good time keeping.

For a job interview it’s particularly important. After all, if you can’t even arrive on time for an interview, what are you going to be like on a daily basis?

Arriving on time shows that you’re organised and responsible, which is a good first impression no matter who you’re meeting.

If you think there may be traffic delays then make sure you allow enough time – it’s always better to arrive early rather than late.

In fact it can be even better (just not too early – if you arrive an hour before your meeting it’ll seem less like you’re keen and more like you’ve got your times mixed up!)


2. A good handshake


As bizarre a social ritual it might be, a good handshake can go a long way to making a good impression.

It’s important to have a firm handshake (no one likes a limp one) and to look the person in the eye as you do – although remember, firm does not mean bone crushing!

Research has shown that a good handshake not only helps towards a positive first impression, but also lessens the impact of any mistakes you might go on to make during your first encounter.

Something as simple as a good handshake really can make a big difference (although this doesn’t apply to dates – a handshake might be a tad formal!)


3. Smile

Smart woman in a suit smiling

Another simple one – smile.

A good smile will help you feel positive and put the person you’re meeting at ease.

As the saying goes, ‘we all smile in the same language’ (yes, it doesn’t make any sense when you think about it, but it’s a nice sentiment!)

One caveat, don’t smile TOO much – you don’t want to cross the line from friendly acquaintance to grinning, insincere buffoon.


4. Be presentable

Woman smartly dressed

Dress appropriately for the occasion and look like you’ve made an effort.

This isn’t about spending loads of money and splashing out on a tailored suit, it’s just about dressing appropriately for the meeting you’re about to have – arriving in shorts and a T-Shirt for an office job could make an instant bad impression you’re unable to recover from.

If you don’t have the right clothes for an interview see if you can borrow from a same-sized friend.

Also, if the Job Centre has sent you for an interview, mention to them that you don’t have the right clothes and they should be able to put you in touch with a local organisation that can help you.

It’s also important to make sure you’re showered and brushed – unpleasant bodily odour will linger in the mind long after it has left the nostrils.

Dressing to impress also boosts your confidence and will help you feel ‘the part’.

Find out here how to boost your job prospects for free.


5. Be confident

Confident man in suit

Yes, I know, I hate it when people give you that advice too – as if being confident is just something you can switch on and off.

But even if confidence isn’t something that comes naturally to you, you can still make an effort to feel and come across more calmly than you otherwise would be.

Quite often, confidence is just about having enough about you to forget about yourself and concentrate on the other person and the matter at hand. It’s certainly NOT about telling them how wonderful you are, how lucky they are to have you, how amazing you would be at the job, how much everyone else loves you etc etc. That’s the sort of talk you get from unconfident people.

Once you have done your best to dress and wash well and mug-up on whatever you need to know for the interview/meeting, forget yourself and think about what you want to put across and how you can make the other person’s life a bit better. Employers – and even in-laws – are people too!

There’s certainly a place for humility and a little self-deprecation, but don’t run yourself down – show them why you’re a good fit.

If you have any nervous ticks, whether it be playing with your hair or fidgeting with your hands, just try to keep them under control but don’t fixate on them. Everyone has something they have to deal with in themselves!

Always stand and sit-up straight and give the other person eye contact. Those simple steps on their own will make you look more confident.

Confidence may come more naturally to some than to others but that doesn’t mean you should give up on yourself!

Read out 16 top tips to help you if you’ve lost the confidence to go for jobs.


6. Assume everybody likes you

Confident man in interview

This might sound weird but it really works. Assume the person you’re meeting already likes you and, research shows, they’re likely to warm to you. At the same time, assume that you like the other person and that is likely to make you treat them well.

Unfortunately, if you meet someone assuming they’re going to dislike you then you’re increasing the chance of that being the case.

If you assume they don’t like you then you’ll come across as guarded, more defensive and less warm – making it much harder for the person to see what they should like about you.

Read our 45 ways to get a job.


7. Listen and ask questions

Young male professional smiling at job interview

It’s important to show that you’re making an effort when you have your first meeting.

This means you need to show that you’re listening, by giving eye-contact and nodding appropriately, and asking questions to show you’re paying attention and have been interested in what the other person has to say.

Show that you’re making an effort and good feelings will be reciprocated.


8. Make small talk

Friendly woman chatting at a job interview

For some people, making small talk with a stranger is something of a nightmare.

It’s absolutely vital, however – an awkward silence can be hugely damaging during a first meeting.

If you’re someone who struggles with small talk then there are ways you can prepare.

Find something out about the person you’re meeting – if it’s a date then you’ll hopefully know a bit about the person, but even if it’s a job interview you can look up the person who’s conducting the interview on LinkedIn and see if you can find out any of their interests.

It’ll help you prepare talking points so should there be a silence, you’re able to fill it in.

Note of caution – if you do find out something about an interviewer online, be careful not to come across as a stalker…it won’t help your case!

Should you see, for instance, that your interviewer is a Manchester United fan, best ease into the topic gently with ‘Are you a football fan?’ rather than ‘How long have you been a Manchester United fan.’

Find out how to write a killer CV.


9. Don’t be above a bit of bribery

Job interview in a coffee shop

If you can have a meeting whilst eating a nice meal, or in the presence of nice smells (coffee or freshly baked cookies, for example), then you increase your chance of a positive reaction.

This might not be applicable to a job interview because you’re unlikely to be able to choose the venue, but it would certainly help with a date, meeting the in-laws or if you’re trying to secure a business deal.

Studies have shown that people, whilst eating, are generally more likely to respond positively. This affect wears off once the person has finished eating.

Use this knowledge to your advantage and it can help you make a strong first impression.


short do’s and don’ts

The office search company has also come up with this list of Do’s and Don’ts for job applicants – and they don’t cost you!



…your research

Woman using laptop

Always do some research on the company before the interview. Also try and research the people who will be interviewing you if you know the names (check LinkedIn for starters). If you don’t know who they are, then ask. Displaying some good knowledge about their professional background can make a great first impression.

…ask for the essential information

Professional woman on the phone

It’s important you are aware of the type of interview you are having. If you are not told, then ask. You should also ask how long the interview is and for the exact location of the interview (street name, office number, floor of building). This will allow you to plan the interview day in advance.

…show enthusiasm and interest

Enthusiastic businessman shaking hands

If you feel the role is perfect for you, tell the interviewer that you’re very interested in the job. You should also inform the interviewer that they can email or phone you if they think of any extra questions.

…ask about the next steps in the hiring process

Woman asking questions in her job interview

Ask who you need to stay in touch with after the interview and it’s good if you can get their contact details while you’re there. Also ask if they know when they’ll be back in touch with you.



…eat, drink or chew gum in interviews

Rude man chewing gum in job interview

It goes without saying that you should never do anything that would make you look unprofessional, so eating, drinking or chewing gum should always be avoided.

…enquire about salary or holidays

Businessman enquiring about money

Don’t ask about salary, holidays, bonuses, pensions or other benefits until you have received a job offer. There’s plenty of time to do that if you get an offer.

…offer negative information about yourself

Sceptical female interviewer

Even if you are being self-depreciating – never offer negative information about yourself. Don’t give the interviewer anything that would make them think badly of you. Stay positive at all costs.

…answer questions with just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’

Sceptical interviewer

Every question that’s asked to you needs to be answered in detail. If you do answer with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ explain wherever possible. You need to show the interviewer that you have relevant skills and determination for the role.

…leave your phone on

Man answering his phone in a meeting

Never respond to calls or texts during the interview. Keep your mobile switched off and hidden away. 


Have you got any tips? Let us know your experiences in the comments section below – we love hearing from you.


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2 years ago

Good advice for interviews.

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