First Impressions

Recruiter Karen Holt tells the story of a candidate she had who was in the final interview stage meeting with the client’s vice president. The candidate was perfect. Karen expected the job was hers. Instead the candidate was sent away after just 15 minutes with the vice president.

“I don’t like her” was all Karen could initially get out of the vice president. Upon further prodding, Karen was able to discover that the candidate wore the same perfume as the vice president’s ex-wife, and the 15 minute interview was the end of the candidate’s encounter with the client.

It happens sometimes an emotional factor triggers a response that is less than practical in the evaluation process, but you’ve done your homework, you’ve asked all the proper questions, How should you determine which, if any, of the candidates you’ve met with would make the ideal match?

Investing in the pre-hire evaluation process will increase your chances of choosing the right candidate. The closer you can associate the evaluations to the job requirements, the more likely you will be to determine the right candidate.

First impressions influence our immediate attitude toward an individual and often set the groundwork for the relationship that will follow. According to Psychology Today (  our brains develop first impressions based on a collection of various factors involved in a new experience. How accurate these impressions are depend both on the observer as well as the person being observed.

Is the individual neat, appropriately attired and seemingly confident? Does he make eye contact?  Have a sincere smile and have a firm handshake? Does he appear to be presenting himself in the best possible manner?

Many of these factors influence our perception of the candidate’s competency approachability and likability Especially in positions requiring a high level of sociability, such as in sales or management, the initial impressions at an interview could be influential in your evaluation of a candidate.  While it’s natural to have these reactions to a candidate  it’s important to defer judgment until all factors – including experience credentials  reference checks  etc  – can be fully taken into account The first impression is only one aspect of the complete picture and should be evaluated accordingly.

An important thing to consider when evaluating first impressions is your own decision-making process.   Are you quick to react instinctively or do you take the time to more fully contemplate all factors?

As in the case of the perfume story an emotional reaction was triggered and an otherwise suitable candidate was turned away. I remember a client I once had that was very concerned with whether or not the candidate had the right dimple in their tie  That superficial methodology had very little to do with the reality of the individual’s capabilities.

An awareness of how you tend to react to people, the type of people you are naturally drawn to, and knowledge of what has worked for you in the past can help in your evaluation of a first impression  You will be able to be more objective in an interview if you are aware of your own decision-making process and do not let your first impressions steer your line of questions  Remain objective  keep the interview fair and keep the questions consistent with those you’re using to interview all the candidates for the position.

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