How to Make a Professional First Impression in Healthcare

Last Updated: 30 August 2023

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Madeline Gilkes

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You have probably wondered at some point or another what kind of first impression you've made on someone.

We all try to make the best first impression that we can – whether we are working clinically as a nurse, a care worker, a pharmacist in the community, 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?

A female nurse conversing happily with an elderly lady at her bedside

What Makes a First Impression?

Did you know that it takes as little as three seconds to form a first opinion of someone? (MindTools n.d.).

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

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

Furthermore, if you are fortunate enough to be categorised as ‘attractive’, then you are likely to be interpreted as being ‘nice, intelligent, successful and outgoing’ (Adams 2012).

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 first impression, 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.

Patient communicating with nurse

First opinions are based on your:

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

(MindTools n.d.)

Alarmingly, first impressions are also unlikely to be undone...

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 n.d.)

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 therefore, it's essential that you remain patient.

Just a Thought...

A different but important aspect of making a likeable first impression is through your social media presence.

In modern society, some employers and recruiters look at potential employees’ social media profiles when considering who to hire (Skates 2014). Therefore, a first impression could potentially be formed before an employer has even met you.

Knowing this, you may want to consider how you are portraying yourself online. For example, which profile photo you exhibit and what information you make publicly available. The email address you provide should likewise be respectful, appropriate and professional (Skates 2014).


Adams, T 2012, 'Judging a Book by its Cover – Are First Impressions Accurate?', Undergraduate Honors Thesis, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA, viewed 28 April 2023,

Ames, DR & Bianchi, EC 2008, ‘The Agreeableness Asymmetry in First Impressions: Perceivers’ Impulse to (Mis)judge Agreeableness and How It Is Moderated by Power’, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Columbia University, NY,

Lawson, M 2009, ‘Disarm: the art of first impressions’, The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal , vol. 11, viewed 28 April 2023,

MindTools n.d., Making a Great First Impression, MindTools, viewed 28 April 2023,

Skates, L 2014, ‘Job Applicants’ Social Media Profiles Now Checked by Companies as ‘Common Practice' ', ABC News, 15 November, viewed 28 April 2023,

Zebrowitz, LA & Montepare, JM 2008, ‘Social Psychological Face Perception: Why Appearance Matters’, Social Personality Psychology Compass, vol. 2, no. 3, viewed 28 April 2023,

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