Q: How do I make a good first impression?

A: There are many factors that come into play when trying to make a good first impression, but here are the most important, in my opinion:

#1 – DRESS

I am not saying that you need to show up in a business suit for an interview if it is a company that allows sweatpants at work, but do your research and know what the proper dress is for a given environment.  You don’t want someone to write you off before ever speaking with you because of your attire.  If all else fails, ask someone at the company or organizing the event what the proper dress is for the occasion.


I don’t just mean “business” etiquette…I am referring to things that should become second nature to you as you grow into a successful adult – make eye contact, smile, provide a firm handshake and introduce yourself when you meet someone new AND don’t focus so much on introducing yourself that you miss the name of the person that you are meeting!

#3 – ELEVATOR (or 30-seond) PITCH

This is sometimes seen as a “scary” word, like networking, but just as I beg you to see networking as being nothing more than making new connections, I want to put you at ease about giving an elevator pitch!

So, think of it in three parts: introduction, back-story and call-to-action

For the introduction, be sure to include your name and current status; see #2 for the etiquette involved in doing so properly. 

By back-story, I am referring to your experiences, what you offer and what benefits you could provide.  Be vivid and provide just enough detail to leave them wanting more.  And, when you can, do research in advance about the individual and or companies that you will interact with. 

For call-to-action, it really depends on the setting and what you hope to gain from the conversation – an interview, a business card, and introduction to someone else, etc.


If you have questions or feedback on this topic or others, please write to us @IllinoisMCS or media-careerservices@illinois.edu.  

Q&A archives are here.