How to make a great first impression on employers

Illustrative representation of How to make a great first impression on employers

The Department of Jobs and Small Business regularly surveys Australian employers. We asked them what young job seekers can do to make a good impression at an interview.

Here’s what employers told us:

Employers are impressed by job seekers who: 

  • Are punctual
  • This means turning up on time (or even better five minutes early) with everything you need to wow them - such as your résumé, application and at least two references. This will show them that you are both reliable and organised - two traits all employers value!
  • Dress appropriately for the job
    • This can feel like a tricky one to get right. What is ‘appropriate’ for one workplace can be a big miss for another. So how do you know what to wear?
    • Firstly think about the work environment. If it’s a formal office job, business attire is a must. For less formal workplaces, like retail, hospitality or construction, ‘smart casual’ should be okay.
    • If in doubt, check what people are wearing in the workplace, then dress a bit better. Make sure whatever you wear is neat, clean and ironed.
  • Offer a firm handshake
    • No one likes a limpy handshake! A firm handshake shows confidence and respect for the other person. And by ‘firm’ we don’t mean ‘death grip’. Hint: if your knuckles are turning white, you are doing it wrong!
    • Also if you tend towards sweaty palms when you are stressed, use a hanky or small cloth to wipe your hands before meeting the employer.
  • Smile and are friendly
    • It’s amazing how something as simple as a smile can make a big difference to how others perceive you. And don’t just reserve your pearly whites for the interviewer or manager. Be friendly and polite to everyone you meet – whether it’s the CEO, the receptionist or the guy watering the pot plants.
  • Are well presented
    • This covers everything from wearing clean and neat clothes, making sure your hair is tidy and having a positive attitude.
    • Making eye contact and watching your posture are also good ways to display confidence (even if you are nervous!).
    • Other tips: Try to control your fidgeting as this can be distracting for the employer. Holding a pen and notepad to take notes may help keep the fidgets under control. And remember to turn off your phone!

Check out our video ‘Hot tips to stand out from the crowd’ for more ways to impress an employer.

Some other ways to show an employer you really want to work with them:

  1. Be your best self online.

Be mindful of how you present to others.This includes how you appear on social media. Make sure your profiles show you in a positive light. Google yourself and think about whether you would hire you? If it’s a firm ‘No!’, change your privacy settings.

Check out our article to find out more about having a positive online presence.

  1. Show them you understand their business.

Do some homework on the business to get an idea of what they do, their challenges and priorities. This will help you explain what you can offer them and shows you are keen to work for them.

  1. Ask questions.

Ask questions about the employer's products and services or upcoming projects. It’s a good idea to plan your questions in advance. It's ok to write them down so you don’t forget them!

For more information on what employers look for in young workers, see the fact sheet 'Looking for a Job - Employer Advice for Young People'

These tools provide tips on:

…Or you can browse Job Jumpstart for other ideas and suggestions of what to do next.