Do a quick internet search for “the most important things to do at a job interview,” and you’ll no doubt see many results about making a good first impression. Advice on making a good impression ranges from picking out the right clothing to perfecting a strong handshake. There’s no doubt that hiring managers and recruiters really do care a great deal about first impressions, but there is a strong argument that first impressions are tied to hiring errors more often than any other factor.
Research has found that most people form impressions about personality based on facial appearance within a few milliseconds of meeting another person. Most business owners who’ve had to hire employees know that it’s easy to judge someone based on how they look. Maybe you’ve made assumptions about a job candidate’s friendliness or customer service skills based on appearance. The problem with this approach is that first impressions are often inaccurate.
Of course, the fact that first impressions aren’t always accurate doesn’t mean that they don’t have a place in hiring. It just means that it’s important for hiring managers and business owners to rely more on data-driven hiring methods than on their first instincts when hiring. At Sprockets, we believe that your personal insights are more valuable when paired with pre-hire candidate assessments. Learn how first impressions are used during the hiring process so that you can lead your organization towards hiring practices that rely on hard data instead.
Taking a Closer Look at First Impressions
We’ve all heard that making a great first impression is essential in both our professional and personal lives. If you’ve been through a high-pressure job interview, you likely worried beforehand about the impression you’d make. As an interviewer, you’ve probably made snap judgments about job candidates on at least a few occasions. That’s because humans are programmed to judge others based on their facial appearance. We all have first impression biases that are shaped by our culture and by our families.
No doubt you can think of a time when your first impression about someone was wrong. Many humans still depend on first impressions to make important decisions. You’ve probably been right about people more often than you were wrong about them, and you believe that your instincts will be just as accurate when you interview job candidates. You’re certainly not alone in your assumptions. Thirty-three percent of hiring managers say that they know if they’ll hire someone within seconds of meeting them.
Relying on these first instincts, however, is a big mistake during hiring. Data-driven hiring reveals that working based on first impressions can lead you to hire the wrong people more often than not and to miss out on the most promising candidates. Why? Some candidates who are actually weak performers on the job know-how to present themselves well. Other candidates who have incredible potential may be too nervous to make the best first impression possible.
There is also convincing evidence that good judges of character can only make accurate conclusions about people who are being honest. Unless the person you’re interviewing is very bad at lying, you’re not likely to get an accurate impression of their character. Many applicants lie about important work experience or education information. Of course, good first impressions that are based on inaccurate information provide nothing of value to the hiring process.
How Hiring Assessments Can Offset First Impression Bias
First impression bias can impede effective hiring. Thankfully, there are HR tech solutions designed to help you look past first impressions to overall candidate quality. One of the most powerful tools in your recruitment arsenal should be hiring assessments. Such assessments use tested metrics and data to determine how well a given candidate might fit an open position. Assessments can be tailored to reflect the needs of your industry and the culture of your organization. Sprockets is proud to provide assessment solutions that are tailored to the unique needs of those filling high-turnover positions.
Pairing your first impressions of a job candidate with the data you glean from pre-hire assessments is an effective way to pick the right hire. Assessments show you if the candidates you favor have the skills and personality traits to succeed in your workplace. If you move towards using assessments, be sure to provide appropriate training to your hiring managers. It’s important to talk to team members responsible for hiring employees about the shortfalls of relying on first impressions in hiring so that they better understand why they should weigh their own impressions against assessment data.
Using a standardized assessment for all potential employees mitigates bias in the hiring process. That’s because assessments outweigh the unconscious biases we all have. It’s also because you’ll have assessment data to back up your hiring decisions if you are questioned by an unhappy job candidate or government agency. Remember that not all candidate assessments are created equal. You should work with an experienced assessment company that can clearly explain the metrics used to assess potential hires. Having a comprehensive understanding of how the assessment process works will help you better use assessment results to your advantage. Knowing how your assessments work is also essential to mitigating hiring discrimination charges.
Of course, using pre-hire assessments doesn’t mean that you don’t need to think about the first impression a candidate makes. You should look at your initial interactions with job candidates to determine how they might react to your clients. You should also pay attention to any gut instincts that something is off with a job candidate. If you have a very negative first impression of a candidate who does well on an assessment, spend some extra time checking their employment references. Remember that accurate, high-quality information always benefits the hiring process.
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