You never get a second chance to make a first impression!
We all know the saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
That first impression might include appearance, body language, and punctuality. But it definitely includes the first thing you say.
Do you ever find yourself in that awkward moment during an introduction, where you say, “Hi, I'm so and so,” and then you wait, hoping that they pick up the rest of the conversation? Do you wonder what you could say right away, to make sure that they know who you are, what you can offer them, or why they should remember you?
There are different situations in which you'll need to introduce yourself and each will require different adjustments. Interviews, networking events, unplanned encounters, emails, and business meetings all have unique contextual factors to take into account. But at its core, a professional introduction always has the same goal: making a great first impression.
Let's take a look at how to introduce yourself.
How do you prepare a self-introduction?
You can't go through life with a “Hello, my name is…” sticker on at all times. Introducing yourself requires commanding the moment and giving the information you want someone to know about you.
The key to introducing yourself effectively is having a strong introduction prepared and ready to go. There are two steps to this: figuring out what to say and then crafting how to say it. Much like an elevator pitch, a good introduction gives a concise, thorough, and intriguing presentation by following the three steps of who, what, and why.
Building the message
1. Who Start with a brief summary of your professional standing. The first words of your professional introduction should include your name, job title, and employer.
Instead of: “Hi, I'm Bob.” Try: “Hi, I'm Bob Mathers. I'm a Lead Analyst with PWC.”
If you're currently unemployed and seeking a job, you might mention your education, certification level, or your job search.
“Hi, I'm Bob Mathers. I'm a Data Analyst. I just finished my MBA at CUNY and am starting to look for new opportunities.”
2. What Then, give a one-line summary of your work experience and key accomplishments. This next step is to give them more context of who you are, what you've done, and, to be brutally frank, why they should be talking to you. This is your chance to go beyond the title. What has your contribution been to your current employer?
“I've been with PWC for about 10 years now, focusing primarily on risk management. I've covered 150 clients and helped to decrease their depreciations by an average of 20%.”
3. Why End the introduction by creating a bridge to the next part of the conversation. You could set up the “ask” or the “call-to-action” or, in an interview setting, guide the chat to a resume highlight.
“I've always been impressed by your team's work and believe I could be an asset. Do you have a moment to talk?”
Crafting the presentation
Once you've built the content you wish to convey, it's time to polish the presentation. In other words, how will you say it all? Let's look at a few elements that will go into crafting the phrasing.
Consider the context: At a networking event, you might meet many people with little time to make an impression, so you'll want to get into the elevator pitch quickly. An interview is a more structured encounter, so it might invite a bit more small talk before plunging into the main introduction. They'll also presumably have seen your resume, so you might be able to be a bit more personal. At a networking event, however, they'll likely have no basis for knowing anything about you, so you'll want to give them specific context quickly.
Stay professional: You might be wondering, “Should I tell a joke or try to be funny?” While humor in cautious doses is fine, most interviewing experts advise against trying too hard to be funny. The essential question is, what impression do you want to leave them with? Do you want them to see you as a funny guy they want to hang out with, or as a professional who will add concrete value to their company? Also, consider the possible backlash of a joke not landing or even being culturally insensitive. When in doubt, err on the side of being professional.
Do your research: Know as much as you can about the company you're applying to. Know their market, research their products, and explore their company culture. Anything you can find out is useful knowledge when crafting an introduction, to let them know you will be an asset.
Find a point of connection: See if there are any readily available points of connection between you and the person you're directly speaking to. Do you know any of the same people? Do you have any hobbies or educational backgrounds in common?
Stay positive: It might be tempting to complain about something as a way of finding common ground - traffic, the convention space, the weather. But negative icebreakers have a tendency to create a negative emotional space around the conversation. Positive vibes at the top of the conversation have a much better chance of raising the good feeling around an interaction. A “Good morning, nice to meet you!” goes a lot further than a “Hey, parking is horrible around here, isn't it?”
What are some self-introduction examples?
Let's take a look at a couple of examples of how to introduce yourself in different scenarios.
How do you introduce yourself at a networking event?
"Hi, I'm Holly Pederson. I'm a marketing associate with SAP. I've been fairly heavily focused on the retail rollout this past year. We were able to generate 1,200 new subscribers to our vertical integration product, including 3 global retailers. I've heard your IT firm was looking to do an international rollout of its new software. Have you thought about your media strategy? I'm looking for a new employment challenge and I'd love to work for a boutique software company like yours.”
How do you introduce yourself in an interview?
This scenario is easier to think of in two parts. When you're first called in and when you get the inevitable prompt: “Tell me about yourself.”
When you're first called in:
“Good morning, I'm Ron Schwartz. It's a pleasure to meet you. John Moore, from accounting, says hello. We went to school together.”
After they say: “Tell me about yourself”:
"I've been a Graphic Designer for 7 years and spent the last 5 at Moe's Designs. I handle the mass market accounts and was promoted to Design Lead last year. I've also recently completed a series of project management courses, as my ultimate goal is to work as an Art Director. I'm a big fan of your work here. I collaborated with Erik, one of your Print Artists, on an independent project and heard about the opening for Head Designer from him. I've been gaining experience managing design teams and I would be really excited for the opportunity to do that for you.”
How do you introduce yourself in an email?
Although crafting an email to introduce yourself might be different than walking up to someone at an in-person event, the same rules of structure apply: who, what, and why.
Subject: Meeting request
Dear Mr. Johnson,
My name is Elliot Spencer and I've been a freelance IT Security Specialist for over 8 years. In that time, I've consulted for a variety of mid-sized accounting firms, just like yours. Recently, I helped Empire Accounting to overhaul its firewalls and security protocols, eliminating the breach threat that they were experiencing.
I understand from Todd Burrow, one of your Lead Accountants, that you're looking to hire full-time IT security personnel. I would be excited to join your team and believe my experience could be an asset to your firm. I hope to arrange a meeting with you to discuss this opportunity and the security concerns facing your company.
Thank you for your consideration and time.
What mistakes can you make when introducing yourself?
Even if you have a well-crafted introduction, there are still some pitfalls to avoid when introducing yourself.
Don't slow-roll the beginning
Don't begin your introduction with “Well…” or “So…”. These stumble-starts take the air out of the conversation. Get to your point.
Don't ramble on… and on…
You don't want to drone on while the person you're speaking to glazes over with disinterest. After more than four sentences, they'll likely forget most of what you said. This is why we prepare and practice.
Don't surrender the focus
If you only give a quick “Hi, my name is...” and then move straight to questions for them, they'll feel obligated to answer and end up doing most of the talking. By doing this, you surrender the opportunity to present your USP and leave them with a strong impression
Don't make body language mistakes
Even the best-constructed introduction will be ignored if your body language is off-putting. Look them in the eye, give a firm handshake, stand up straight, and have a relaxed smile. Confidence and trustworthiness go hand-in-hand when introducing yourself. If you stare at the floor and nervously shift in your seat, nothing you say will be heard.
Don't turn your self-introduction into a sales pitch
This is a tricky one, because we talk so much about giving a concise presentation of who you are and what you offer in your introduction. But the most important goal of networking is building relationships. The impression you're making isn't just about “this is a person with a product I need right now,” but rather, “this is a person with the ability to bring solutions to challenges I might face today and tomorrow.”
Don't make cringey jokes
We mentioned this above, but remember it's not a comedy routine. Humorous banter is a skill that can be improved with practice. But beware, if this isn't in your wheelhouse, you're more likely to make a bad impression as someone who lacks situational awareness than as someone who is funny.
What happens after you introduce yourself?
Be prepared for follow-up questions related to your self-introduction. Recruiters like to ask questions about what you just said for a couple of reasons. For one, they want to test your honesty - i.e. did you really go to school with Todd in accounting? Have you really worked for our competitors? Be as honest as you can while introducing yourself.
They also ask about what you said because you might have checked a box on their list of needs and they want to know more. That's a win! You want to be able to elaborate on anything you bring up. So, when preparing your introduction, prepare answers to possible follow-up questions as well!
The best way to follow up on a great introduction is to hand over a great resume. Is yours up-to-date and in stellar form? Let the resume experts at TopResume give your resume a free critique!