Special Guest Blog Post: How to Make an Awesome First Impression on Employers

Posted by Belinda Luby

Special Guest Post from Development Beyond Learning's Managing Director and author of The Graduate Edge, Josh Mackenzie

This week at GradConnection we have a very special blog post from Development Beyond Learning's Managing Director, Josh Mackenzie, full of tips on how to make an awesome first impression on employers.  

At the age of just 31, Josh Mackenzie is Managing Director of Development Beyond Learning and author of The Graduate Edge.

A young, dynamic and passionate leader, speaker, author and graduate development expert (and former professional services graduate!) Josh is widely considered as one of Australia's foremost thought leaders in Australia's graduate development industry across the public and private sectors.

Josh is a regular presenter for the Australian Association of Graduate Employers (AAGE) Annual National Conference and provides monthly online advice and thought leadership to the leadership development industry. Josh's insight and experience is built upon more than a decade of leading, speaking, training and working directly with all generations of people aged 16 through 61, travelling to more than 25 countries and consulting to an A-list of public, private and multi-national clients. Read on for the invaluable information Josh has for you on how to make a great impression on employers, and like them on facebook here!

How to Make an Awesome First Impression on Employers


We've all heard the phrase "don't judge a book by its cover", and how that relates to meeting someone for the first time. Our parents teach us this from a young age; it gets reinforced when you're at school and then as a teenager you begin to learn yourself, sometimes the hard way.

Then there's reality. Unfortunately "judging a book by it's cover" is exactly what we do, especially when meeting someone for the first time. Everyone you will ever meet is programmed to make a judgment about you within the first 10-15 seconds. This stems from thousands of years of human evolution, and weighing up whether or not a new face is going to be a threat to us or not.

Thankfully it's not 10,000BC anymore, it's 2012 and instead of clashing with warring tribes, you're more likely to me out mingling with prospective new employers, colleagues, peers and other university graduates. It's incredibly important that when you meet someone for the first time, they walk away thinking, "that guy/girl really impressed me!" 

So here are some tips and ideas that I've learnt in my combined 12 years from being a graduate in a large firm, to building a million dollar training business and working in the graduate and leadership development industry. They're based on a model I like to call the 'First Impression Triad' which consists of 3 points:

  • Focus
  • Conversation
  • Body Language 


Focus more on the other person, than on yourself. If you're nervous when meeting new people, you're too focused on yourself. If you're confident meeting new people and talk so much the other person barely gets a word in, you're also focused too focused on yourself. Stop thinking about you and start thinking about the other person. Focus on them.

So, when meeting someone for the first time, are you thinking about him or her; or thinking about yourself? Why is this important you ask? Think about it, how would you feel meeting someone for the first time and it's obvious that all they're interested in talking about is themselves...you wouldn't leave with an overly positive impression of him or her would you? Focus more on the other person than on yourself, and not only will you be more engaging, you will find yourself feeling more relaxed as well.


Think more about asking good questions, than trying to think of good things to say.

For many, conversations with new people are often hard, but once mastered, can really have a massive impact. The reason it's hard is that because as people, we are all different; there are those of us that are naturally more confident and outgoing, and there are those of us that not as confident, and meeting/talking to new people takes us out of our comfort zone. By asking good questions, you can leave your new acquaintance with a fantastic first impression that they will remember, no matter if you are outgoing, or not! For all of you who are confident and outgoing, being able to control your natural tendency to just 'talk' will go a long way to building a lasting impression as well.

There are some easy to remember topics that are socially and professionally accepted when meeting new people. Depending on the specific situation, Family, Occupation and Recreation can all be good areas to ask questions around. Have conversations through asking good questions, and be genuinely interested in the other person.

Body Language

93% of the first impression you make has next to nothing to do with 'what' you say. Body language is one of those things that when done right has a make or break impact on the your impression. Research suggests that up to 55% of everything we communicate is through body language, with a further 38% determined by 'how' you say what you say, not 'what' you say.

Stand up straight with your shoulders back a little, chin level, give a genuine smile, make good eye contact and offer a firm handshake. And no, that doesn't mean try and squeeze the life out of whoever's hand you're shaking! The simple things in life are often the best when it comes to making an awesome first impression.

For further information on preparing yourself for your professional career and other tips and suggestions, head to The Graduate Edge Facebook and check it out. Good luck! 


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