Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

16 Ways to Make A Great Impression On Your First Day of Work

By Mark Wilkinson | Jul 1, 2015 | Candidate Tips

First days at work are always terrifying, particularly if you’re a worrier (like this poor soul)…

A thousand thoughts will probably run through your mind, you’ll feel like everyone is judging you and the slightest mistake will make you feel like a complete, embarrassing failure!

Unfortunately, you are going to be judged.

(There’s really no point in sugar-coating it.)

In fact, the first impression you make, could form some of your (more fickle) colleagues’ opinions for the rest of your career within that business.

So…exactly who do you want to be at your new place?

(Try not to become one of the top ten most annoying colleagues, highlighted in our recent blog).

1. Get ready to introduce yourself…a lot.

I highly recommend coming up with a standard couple of lines about yourself – particularly if your previous work history is complicated – so that you don’t get tongue twisted during the inevitable 100,000,001 times you’re going to have to introduce yourself!

Be ready to answer:

  • So what will you be doing with us?
  • Where did you work before?
  • Where do you live?
  • Do you drive into work?

Questions like these may seem a bit cliché, but small talk is just your colleagues’ kind way of trying to make you feel welcome!

2. Smile like you mean it.

No matter what goes through your head during the day, keep that frown, upside down!

Those of you who suffer from “resting bitch face” should particularly heed this warning!

Walking out with a big grin plastered across your face may not seem natural to you, but it’s a vitally important step to coming across friendly and approachable.

3. Memorise names.

Every time you’re introduced to someone, do everything in your power to memorise their name!

Try word association, repeating it over and over again in your head or (if you have a chance) subtly write it down on a piece of paper.

Your new colleagues are bound to be impressed if you genuinely remember who they are.

Recruiter Pro Tip

I used to create my own little seating plan when I started at a new workplace (inconspicuously of course) making it a little easier to remember names.

(Usually with the help of a friendly colleague I trusted, filling in the gaps with me.)

4. Be enthusiastic and positive.

This is obviously a given.

Make sure that your body language is giving across the right, enthusiastic, ‘happy-to-be-here’ impression.

(See ‘resting bitch face’!.’)

5. Be proactive.

Have you ever felt like a burden during your first day of work?

Don’t worry we’ve all felt it; that nervous confusion when you’re not sure exactly what you should be doing and don’t really want to bother the boss!

Just do it!

I guarantee that your new manager is going to be a lot more annoyed if you’ve sat around doing nothing for an hour, than if you’ve taken initiative, spoken up and asked about your next task!

6. Ask for help.

In the same vein, if you’re struggling to complete a task, because you lack the knowledge, experience or skills, ask your boss, or a relevant colleague to help.

From simple things like logging into your computer to complex technical issues; asking is always better than ignoring the problem and wasting time.

7. Work out the rules.

Your contract will outline all of the more important rules about what you can and cannot do at your workplace, from working hours and holidays to social media and clothing.

But there are also a lot of unwritten rules that you’ll have to look out for like ‘don’t eat hot food at the desk,’  ‘don’t throw food waste into the paper bins’ and ‘don’t put the air conditioning on without asking Jane (who sits beneath it!).’

Be on your guard during your first day (and first week) to suss out the dos and don’ts and try not to step on any toes.

8. Bring lunch.

If your colleagues or boss invite you out for lunch – GO!

This is your chance to bond and make friends, showing what a great, friendly person you are.

However, you should also bring lunch with you as a back-up plan, in case everyone brings a packed lunch to munch in the kitchen, eats at their desk or pops out on errands at lunchtime.

Bring something simple to eat – like a sandwich – so you’re ready for all types of lunchtime situations.

But most importantly; don’t bring smelly food! Do you really want to be known for making the entire office stink of fish?


9. Make effort with colleagues.

Within a few hours of being in the office, you’ll probably have worked out who you want to be friends with (and who you really don’t).

Align yourselves with people like yourself, but do be careful, you don’t want to find yourself as part of a ‘bitch clique’ too early on – this could lead other staff members to avoid you.

10. However, don’t be a “try-hard”.

Don’t overdo it!

You don’t want to look too desperate to make new friends.

If you get the feeling that someone doesn’t want to talk to you, move on and act cool!

over-excited waving

11. Don’t overshare.

It’ll take you a while to work out who your trustworthy and not-so-trustworthy colleagues are, so don’t go spilling intimate secrets on your first day, no matter how well you’re getting on with someone.

Be professional, share conversationally (it’s perfectly fine to reveal that you have a husband and two children etc…) but don’t take it too far!

Certainly don’t reveal any information that could be used against you in the future!

12. Don’t bitch.

Stay out of the drama.

Most offices will have their fair share of tension and bitching – it’s an inevitability of spending so much time around the same people – just don’t get involved!

Even if colleagues approach you, be polite, smile and nod, but make it clear that you’ve only been there for a short time so you can’t possibly comment!

(Men who are reading this and thinking ‘well men don’t bitch, so this has nothing to do with me’ – you’re not fooling anyone.)

13. Don’t be a know-it-all!

Trust me, there’s nothing worse than a new employee who turns up and acts like they own the place!

There is always something new to learn at every new workplace and always someone more experienced to teach you (unless you’re the business owner of course…)

Replying to every suggestion with a ‘but at my last place, we did…’ is not a good move.

14. Be prepared to stay late!

The job might have been advertised as 9 – 5, but in this day and age, how often is that the reality?

When it reaches the end of the day, stick around and try and suss out the situation! Don’t be the first to leave.

If you run out of things to do, then again, be proactive and ask your boss – he’ll no doubt send you on your way.

For now at least, you need to prove that you’re willing to go the extra mile!

15. Turn up on time.

This is so obvious that I don’t even know why I’m typing it…

If you’re late on your first day – it’ll be an immediate big fat red mark against your name!

16. Dress to Impress.

Now, it is important to look a little smarter than usual on your first day, but you don’t want to go overboard.

If you show up in a power suit while everyone else is in smart jeans and a t-shirt, then you’re probably going to come across as unapproachable and intimidating.

I recommend getting in touch with HR before starting and asking them for an example of what to wear.


Above all, else, relax!

Stressing yourself out over the little things isn’t going to do you any good and it’s going to come across badly to your colleagues too – “who’s the quiet little mouse in the office?”

If you’re a worrier, then at least act calm (easier said than done, I know).

Put a smile on your face, keep your back straight and chin up…it’ll be over before you know it!

Recruiter Pro Tip.

These are the UK’s most hated office habits according to HR Grapevine, so I’d steer away from them if I were you…

  • Being regularly late
  • Whining all the time
  • Eating stinking food
  • Taking lots of cigarette breaks
  • Deliberately taking a long time to do something/constant procrastination
  • Not replacing things that run out
  • Talking on the phone too loudly
  • Having bad hygiene
  • Gossiping
  • Spraying deodorants, aftershaves and perfumes at desk
  • Coming to work when very ill
  • Texting/using mobile phone all day
  • Having an untidy desk
  • Talking too much about private life
  • Invading personal space
  • Not making a tea round
  • Humming/whistling/singing
  • Constantly tapping/clicking pens/typing too loud
  • Stealing other people’s food/lunch
  • Using jargon

It’s also worth keeping your body language in check! You can reveal an awful lot about yourself, just from a blink of the eye!

Good luck!

- Mark Wilkinson
Mark Wilkinson

Mark Wilkinson

Mark is one of the founders of Coburg Banks and heads up the permanent recruitment division of the business.  Every day he helps companies with their recruitment projects, sourcing the very best individuals for their vacancies.  He understands recruitment inside-out.

> More blog posts by Mark Wilkinson

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