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Making A Professional First Impression in Nursing and Midwifery


Published: 13 February 2017

Cover image for article: Making A Professional First Impression in Nursing and Midwifery

You have probably wondered at one point or another what kind of first impression you had on someone.

We all try to make the best first impression that we can – whether we are working clinically as a nurse, educating, or even just generally in society. When seeking job opportunities, you may be especially determined to put your best foot forward.

So, you may ask, how do you actually make the best first impression?

It may seem unbelievable, but according to MindTools (2016), it takes just 3 seconds to form a first opinion!

Just a tenth of a second of exposure to a face, leads to development of a first impression (Adams 2012)!

Some literature suggests that people make interpretations of your personality based on your facial features (Adams 2012).

Adams even goes on to suggest that if you are fortunate enough to be categorised as ‘attractive’, then you are likely to be interpreted as being “nice, intelligent, successful and outgoing” (2012).

Adams’ study concluded that there is ‘something in the face besides attractiveness that displays internal traits’. Facial features as well as facial movements, voice and gestures, lead to interpretations about a person’s age, attractiveness, emotions, and familiarity (Zebrowitz & Montepare 2008).

‘Agreeableness’ is heavily judged at a first impression of someone, and it refers to being “friendly, warm, nice, easy to get along with” (Ames & Bianchi 2008). Interestingly, agreeableness is not actually interpreted accurately from first impressions.

First opinions are based on your:

  • Appearance
  • Body language
  • Attire
  • Gestures; and
  • Behaviour.

(MindTools 2016)

It may be somewhat horrifying, that it is unlikely that first impressions can be undone (MindTools 2016)!

Ways to Build a Great First Impression

  • Be punctual
  • Be calm and confident
  • Dress appropriately to the context, neatly, cleanly and respectfully
  • Smile!
  • ‘Stand tall… make eye contact, and greet with a firm handshake’
  • Open the conversation (e.g. use ‘small talk’)
  • Be optimistic
  • Use your manners

(MindTools 2016)

Bad First Impressions

  • If your first encounter with someone is less than ideal, it may be wise to try to create a fantastic second impression (Lawson 2009)
  • It has been suggested that on the second encounter, you should “ask thoughtful questions” and “listen without judgment” (Lawson 2009)
  • Lawson (2009) highlights that first impressions can take a long time to re-correct, and thereby it is essential that you remain patient

Just a Thought:

A different but important aspect of making a likeable first impression, is social media. In modern society, some employers and recruiters look at potential employees’ social media sites/presence when considering who they will hire (Skates 2014). Therefore, a first impression could potentially be formed before they have even met you.

You want to consider how you are portrayed online, for example which profile photo you exhibit. The email address you provide should likewise be respectful, appropriate and professional (Skates 2014).

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Portrait of Madeline Gilkes
Madeline Gilkes

Madeline Gilkes focused the research project for her master's of healthcare leadership on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. Madeline is also a qualified weight management practitioner and Registered Nurse. Her vision is to prevent lifestyle diseases, obesogenic environments, dementia, and metabolic syndrome. She has a master of healthcare leadership, a graduate certificate in aged care, and a bachelor of nursing. Madeline works as an academic and has spent the past years in the role of clinical facilitator and clinical nurse specialist (gerontology & education). She is due to complete her Graduate Certificate in Adult and Vocational Education at CSU before November 2018. See Educator Profile

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