Beware Of The Spell Of First Impressions…

Beware Of The Spell Of First Impressions…

August 29th, 2013

tonyArticleYou may have heard this from me before, but it is so important that it is worth repeating from time to time.

Hiring the right candidate is too important to leave to chance. The Problem: If you like a candidate after just meeting them, you tend to over emphasize their positives and minimize their negatives – otherwise known as the “halo effect”.  On the other hand if you do not like a candidate, you tend to over emphasize their weaknesses.

It’s impossible to accurately measure a candidate’s fit for a position when you are under the “spell of first impressions”.

It usually takes getting past the first 30 minutes of an interview to make an objective assessment. Yes this is harder than it sounds, so here are some suggestions to help you:

Minimizing Perception-Oriented Hiring Mistakes:

1)      Conduct initial phone interviews. Schedule a 30-minute phone interview focused on their related major accomplishments before an onsite interview. This will minimize the impact of first impressions.

2)      Assign your interview team members specific areas to focus on during the interview. Do not give anyone on the interview team a full yes or no vote. Rather come up with a candidate scorecard listing all the competencies and factors needed for someone to be successful in the position.  Each interviewer is to be given only a few of these to focus on. During the formal post interview debrief meeting each interview will be required to discuss how they came up with their ranking on just those factors. This will allow the whole team to make a more in depth candidate assessment.

3)      If you are short on time for in-person interviews, do not squeeze several short interviews into the schedule. Conduct a panel interview instead. A recipe for making a wrong hiring decision is to have 4-6 people each spend only 30 minutes with a candidate then add up their yes and no votes. Rather schedule a 60-90 minute panel interview with 2-3 people. This will take less time in total and force the objectivity.

4)      Wait 30 minutes. Before making a hiring decision after an interview, wait 30 minutes before making the yes/no decision.

5)      Be more suspicious with candidates you like. Most interviewers go into sales mode with a candidate they like early in the interview process. They ask softball type questions, and tend to minimize or ignore negatives about the candidate’s fit for the position. To help avoid that natural tendency, make yourself ask tougher questions, digging for confirmation of the person’s job related past accomplishments.

6)      Treat “rough” candidates as though they were a consultant. Some of the better candidates are terrible interviewers for a host of reasons. Perhaps their skills are such that they are invited to join a company more than being interviewed. You want someone whose expertise is in doing a job — not getting one. To help ensure an objective assessment, assume these candidates are great, and interview them as if they were expert consultants. After the first 30 minutes you may find out how good they really are.

7)      Ignore decisions not back up by facts. During the debrief meeting, ignore candidate assessments that include these words: like, think, feel, dislike, bad fit, too soft, too aggressive, and anything about the candidate’s personality (good or bad). These are all indications the candidate was interviewed through a preconception filter.

8)      Soft skills are important, but it is better to assess those at the end of the interview when the interviewer is more objective. So measure first impressions at the end of the interview.

Drop me a line to let me know your thoughts and experiences about this.

Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you in any way.

Kindest Regards,


Tony Bengtson, SPHR
Precision Recruiting, Inc.
CTRN Founder and President
Coors Corporate Gold Supplier Award Recipient
(303) 627-9189




Posted in Advice, Recruiting

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