How to Introduce Yourself
There are so many different iterations of what is and isn’t acceptable when introducing ourselves to others, with so many different words and phrases that could and should be used in different situations.
We all like to think that we know what we should say in certain scenarios but it’s a known fact that when it comes to recruitment, many candidates fall flat as they are simply unsure how to start an introduction professionally.
Why Do Introductions Matter?
It’s a known fact that first impressions can be made in less than seven seconds.
Your initial introduction will set the tone for the rest of your meeting, and probably beyond.
It’s important to understand that when you are introducing yourself, you need to consider more than just your formal greeting.
Your initial introduction is the first moment that you have to encourage the hiring panel to think favorably of you.
If you arrive on time, appropriately dressed, with your hair in a suitable hairstyle, you will likely feel more confident and in control.
This poise will help you to project a calm, confident and professional image. As a result, the hiring panel will be more inclined to think positively of you.
In contrast, if you arrive late, or you’re constantly checking your phone or you appear distracted and unprepared for the job interview, you will struggle to be taken seriously.
This is because you may be giving the impression that you don’t care, you can’t pay attention and that you’re not good at timekeeping.
What Is a Successful Self-Introduction?
When it comes to introducing yourself in a professional context, there’s much to think about.
- What greeting will you use?
- Will you stick with formal linguistics or choose a more casual phrase?
- What do you say beyond the first 'hello' – should you leap into a discussion about your interests and achievements?
- Do you opt for a firm handshake or do you take a European approach and offer a kiss on the cheek?
With so much to consider, it’s easy to see how you can overthink things and create an unnatural introduction that doesn’t position you in the best possible way.
Here are a few considerations to help you make the most of your first introduction:
Consider the Context
In a professional landscape, there are many different contexts where you may be asked to make a self-introduction.
You could be interviewing for a new job position. Equally, you could be the interviewer. You may need to introduce yourself to senior management or colleagues from a different department. Or you may be asked to represent your company via networking events.
Whatever the scenario, many subtle nuances could impact how successful your self-introduction is.
You are likely to speak far more formally to a board of directors than you would if you are interviewing a new junior assistant to work in your team.
Likewise, if you are attending a job interview for a senior position, you may be expected to speak confidently about your achievements.
Keep Your Initial Introduction Brief
During your initial self-introduction, you need to make sure that you keep it brief.
Remember that you are starting a conversation, so you have time to talk about your achievements, your ambitions and your skills in a more natural way later down the line.
Use your initial self-introduction to focus on giving a warm greeting (complete with non-verbal nuances such as a nice smile and eye contact) and saying your name.
Depending on the context of the introduction, you may want to add in a little more information.
For example, if you are networking, you could say:
“Hello, my name is xxx, and I work for XXXX, specializing in xxx”.
In an interview scenario, you may wish to say:
“Hello, my name is xxx, thank you for allowing me to interview for this job role”.
Remember to Listen
This sounds obvious, but you may be surprised how many people don’t listen when focusing on their own introductions.
Make sure you pay attention to the person that you are talking to – in an interview situation, the last thing you want to do is call the interviewer by the wrong name.
The best way to build a professional rapport with someone (and therefore make a great first impression) is to show that you have listened to what they have said to you and react accordingly.
How to Introduce Yourself in Person vs on Paper
What is a paper-based introduction?
You must know how to tailor your approach to self-introduction whether you are talking to someone in person or contacting them directly in other ways.
Successful Self-Introductions in Person
As we’ve already said, your introduction when meeting someone for the first time should position you as professionally as possible.
Your initial introduction should give the impression that you are friendly and approachable, yet also hard-working, confident and motivated.
We mentioned earlier that a key element of your initial self-introduction when greeting someone in person is your body language. Make sure that you stand up tall (no slouching), maintain eye contact, offer a warm smile and do not fidget.
You should also think about the dress code – it’s always wise to err on the side of caution.
Even if you’re interviewing for a job role in an office where most workers wear jeans/sneakers, you should still turn up in professional work attire. It shows that you have tried to impress.
Here’s an example of how you can make a good self-introduction when attending a job interview:
“Hello, my name is XXX, and it’s really nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about this job role, I appreciate the opportunity.”
From this example, you can see that the person is polite and appreciative of the other person’s time. It also shows that they are excited to find out more about the job role.
What not to do:
“Hiya, I’m XXX. Sorry, I’m a bit late, I was busy finalizing a big contract and then struggled to find somewhere to park nearby so had to run. Before we start, can I just grab a coffee?”
As a self-introduction, you can see why this approach wouldn’t work.
Immediately, the interviewer has been met by someone late, someone who is unprepared, has bragged about their existing work and is already demanding that the interview is delayed even further.
There’s no appreciation of the interviewer’s time or the fact that they are there for an interview.
Successful Self-Introductions on Paper
Self-introductions on paper can be tricky. Without the ability to use your voice and your body language to convey an impression, you need to rely on your writing skills.
For some people, this can be advantageous. But for others, writing and selling yourself to an unknown quantity can be increasingly difficult.
We highly recommend that you read through some of these articles to help guide you, as they can be used practically to help you to make that perfect introduction.
To briefly recap, when you are introducing yourself to someone new, whether it’s by letter or email, there are a few pointers you should always follow.
Make sure you address your letter/email to a named contact. Think about how you should address that contact and what salutation to use. Most people choose to use ‘Dear’ followed by that person's full name, or their title and surname. (e.g. Dear Mrs. Bloggs). If you are unsure of the named contact, you could use the phrase “To whom it may concern…”
Make it immediately clear what the purpose of your written contact is. This could be through a subheading or a subject line.
You may wish to name drop any mutual connections that you may have in common. This may gain their attention and encourage them to keep reading.
Be polite in your requests. Don’t make any demands and be appreciative of that person’s time.
Check for any spelling or grammatical errors. If your first introduction is full of mistakes, they’ll quickly hit the ‘delete’ button. Make sure you proofread everything before you hit ‘send’.
Here’s an example of how you can make a good self-introduction when writing a letter or email:
Dear Mrs. Bloggs
Application for the position of Bar Manager
I recently saw your job advert for a bar manager on LinkedIn. I am excited to submit my application for the position. You may be interested to know that I have two years’ experience working in a similar role, along with a further five years’ experience working as a bartender specializing in mixology. I bring a wealth of experience with me and I believe I have the right skills which match your needs.
This approach immediately makes it clear who the letter is addressed to, what they are writing about and gives a solid reason for the recipient to continue reading.
What not to do:
I’m looking for a new job. Please look through my attached resume and come back to me if you have any suitable openings. Thanks, I look forward to your response.
This is an awful self-introduction. It’s not directed to anyone and there’s no reason for the unsolicited request.
The letter focuses on what the employer can do for that person rather than what they can do for the employer. It’s also demanding of their time, “come back to me…”, and comes across as rude and entitled.
How Is a Casual Self-Introduction Different From a Formal Business Introduction?
By now, you should be aware that the way you talk to different people requires different types of phrasing and linguistics.
There are moments where you may want to be extremely formal in your greeting (such as when you are talking to C-suite executives) or there may be times when you can be more relaxed in your approach.
But knowing when and where to make those differences is key to making the most of your self-introduction.
What Is Your Choice of Greeting?
In some languages, there is little differentiation between formal greetings and more casual ones – in English, broadly speaking, you are unlikely to be frowned upon if you say “Hi”, rather than “Hello” to someone you don’t know.
But in other languages, this can be a distinct faux-pas.
When Do You Use Formal Titles?
In a formal situation, you should always use titles unless that person has permitted you to be more relaxed.
For example, you may want to refer to somebody as “Mrs. Bloggs” or “Sir/Ma’am”.
There are also certain professions, where you will always call a person by their professional titles such as school teachers or medical professionals.
Should You Use a Handshake?
Handshakes are a complex matter. In some instances, it is polite to start a meeting with a firm handshake. It’s a widely recognized practice that is often used in formal and casual scenarios.
However, you need to be aware of cultural differences and understand how your decision to offer a handshake (or not offer a handshake) could be viewed.
For example, Brazilians consider handshakes to be hugely important and it can influence how much small talk takes place before the meeting commences.
In contrast, those working in Asian countries may prefer to bow their heads as a formal greeting.
There are also religious implications with handshakes. Some religions may not allow handshakes between people of different genders.
The length and strength of a handshake are also important – in a formal situation, a handshake can be considered a ‘power move’. Senior business leaders may be looking for a strong handshake that represents confidence.
You want your handshake to be firm, not limp, but you also want to have a relaxed grip featuring the whole of the palm, not just the fingertips.
A good tip is to wait for someone more senior to hold out their hand to you and to follow their lead.
Is a Kiss or a Hug Professionally Acceptable?
In some scenarios, you may be greeted with a kiss on the cheek, an air kiss or even a quick hug. This is often for more casual introductions with someone that you know, rather than in a professional situation.
The Best Ways to Make the Most of Your Self-Introduction
Much of your self-introduction is made from your timing and your approach rather than your choice of words. This is particularly true if you are introducing yourself to someone new in a group situation (such as a networking event) rather than a pre-agreed appointment or meeting.
A top tip is to find a suitable moment to say:
“May I introduce myself? My name is xxx”.
This allows others to include you in a conversation and find out more about you. You shouldn’t interrupt somebody who is already talking.
We mentioned earlier the importance of listening. You need to try your best to remember the name of the person that you are speaking to.
An easy practical tip is to repeat their name once they’ve told it to you:
“Hello, my name is xxx”, “Hello xxx, it’s nice to meet you…”
This will help to reiterate that person’s name in your mind.
The final tip is to make sure you know when to move on, and how to leave gracefully. If a conversation has run its course, simply excuse yourself by thanking the person for their time and offer an opportunity to maintain contact in the future.
In a professional situation, this may be an opportune time to hand over a business card, allowing you to pass on your contact information.
There are many different reasons why you may need to think about how you can introduce yourself to someone. It may be a job interview situation. You may be attending a networking event or you could be making a presentation to a senior colleague.
Whatever the circumstances, it’s important to think about how you present yourself and what impression you may be giving.
This article should give you some practical hints and tips to make the most of your self-introduction, whether you are introducing yourself in person or through an email or written letter.
These tips should help you to facilitate a great first impression whatever the scenario.