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The Lasting Power of First Impressions

Posted by Bob Corlett on December 17, 2010

First impressions are lasting.  From the "thin slicing" (or rapid cognition) described in Blink, to first impressions about the quality of a website, to the snap judgments that happen in job interviews, the science is very clear - people form an opinion in as little as a tenth of a second, and then stick to it.

(I know you've already decided, but more proof is here and here.)

We are hardwired to decide in an instant and then say "Once I've made up my mind you cannot persuade me with the facts."  ( Sadly, refusing to consider new information once you've made up your mind explains quite a bit about political partisanship).

So clearly our rapid cognition has a huge impact on hiring decisions.  But it actually has a much bigger impact long before the interview.

Your first impression (on a candidate) actually happens long before they come to meet with you.  Your first impression happens the very first time a candidate comes in contact with your organization.

Your first impression is made in your recruiting efforts.

Top candidates are forming impressions about you, long before you see their resume.  After all, Google is the new business card.

In seconds, candidates evaluate all the following about your opportunity:

  • Are you trustworthy - does the opportunity look sketchy or legitimate?
  • Are you interesting - does it look intriguing, or just like every other job?
  • Are you "like me" - would I fit in there, do you sound like the kind of place where I would  like to work?
  • Does your job sound challenging and rewarding?  Will my work be taken seriously - will I be important to you?
  • Are you going to waste my time if I apply?

Hiring managers often talk about how quickly they form first impressions during an interview, but top performers are way ahead of you in the first impressions game.

The vast majority of your potential new hires have either never heard of you, or they have heard of you and have already formed their first impression ... and decided not even to apply.

 


Ultimately, very little of what is written in either the job description or the resume helps either party understand each other, or helps to predict who will be successful on the job. In this very first step of the hiring process -- posting a job ad and reviewing resumes -- there is already a frustrating breakdown in communication. 

To learn how to write more effective job postings, read How to Write Job Descriptions that Attract Top Performers. Or, if you prefer your research and information to be more attractively formatted, just download the document below.

Job Descriptions Ads

 

Disclaimer: This advice is primarily for professional hiring in a large metropolitan area. Our perspective is shaped by our work in a retained executive search firm, conducting searches for CEO and senior staff positions. We've completed over 600 searches for associations and other nonprofits in major metropolitan areas like Washington DC, New York, and Chicago, but not all of our advice will be relevant if you are interviewing for other types of positions in other job markets. 

Topics: Employer Reputation, Writing Job Descriptions, Executive Search, Job Advertising