We’ve all seen that candidate who just wasn’t ready for the interview. Their laptop broke down the night before, or the bus was late, or something else happened so that the interview just didn’t go the way they had planned.
Should your first impression of such an unfortunate candidate decide their fate?
For Many, the First Impression Is the Last
Plenty of interviewers make their hiring decisions within the first few minutes of the interview. Research from Monster indicates that a candidate’s first impression is the second most important factor for interviewers when assessing candidates. Crucial elements of a first impression are a candidate’s punctuality, level of preparation, eye contact, personal appearance, and handshake.
These elements, although not vital in themselves, are indicative of something more important: professionalism. Professionalism is key to being successful in the workplace, and when candidates don’t project professionalism in their interviews, interviewers feel they have no way of knowing how well the candidate would do in an office environment.
For Some, the First Impression Is Just the Beginning
On the flip side, we have to acknowledge that unconscious bias does exist. It’s easy to assume that a candidate’s nervousness is proof of incompetence and that a strong handshake speaks of experience – but neither assumption is necessarily true.
Because these biases are quite common, it’s vital to make a point of remembering that the impression we get of a candidate within the first few minutes of meeting them may not be indicative of what that candidate will be like as an employee.
That being said, there are both pros and cons to first impressions – especially when it comes to hiring millennials, who may not have much interviewing experience.
Here are five key things to remember when interviewing job seekers to help you avoid unconscious biases and rash hiring decisions based on first impressions:
1. Study Your Candidates
Read through your candidates’ resumes carefully. Although a high GPA at an Ivy League school is important, your candidate might have some amazing skills they haven’t placed in the limelight.
Because young candidates don’t have decades of experience to show off, it’s important that you pay special attention to their internships and volunteer experiences. These may align perfectly with the kind of skills and attitudes you are looking for.
On the flip side, a job seeker with a perfect GPA may have no work experience whatsoever. You have to make sure you’re viewing each candidate holistically, and you can only do that if you really do your homework.
2. Engage With Your Candidates
Ensure productive interviews and avoid confirmation bias by creating interpersonal relationships with your candidates. Making each interview special by changing locations, adding new topics, or delving into similarities in backgrounds can make for more positive interactions.
Try having lunch at a trendy cafe and discussing your candidate’s personal goals and passions. This simple change of scenery and conversation might help you learn more about candidates who are ill-at-ease in traditional office settings.
3. Be Open
When you see a candidate walk through the door, their appearance can be jarring – especially with millennials. They might have piercings, they may have died their hair purple – or maybe they just look really, really young.
Research suggests that many interviewers are immediately put off by tattoos and other “unprofessional” looks, but it’s important to remember that these looks are very common in younger generations. Interviewers who immediately reject candidates based on appearances could be missing out on top talent for arbitrary reasons. It’s best to keep an open mind.
4. Make Your Expectations Clear
Contemplate carefully that questions you have for your candidates. Whether it’s a full interview or a quick chat at a career fair, your questions should always be carefully planned and unique to your company. No need for things like “What was the toughest experience you’ve dealt with in customer service?” A canned question gets a canned answer.
5. Follow Up With Everyone
Following up with all the people whom you interviewed is vital. That email interaction can give iffy candidates the boost they need to get into the final stage of interviewing or show you which of your surefire options are actually uninterested. An imperfect interview can be turned around with professional and immediate responses via email.
With so many candidates out there, it can be easy to treat your potential employees like snacks in a vending machine. However, as top recruiters will tell you, “The ideal candidate follow-up strategy should be based on a single controlling principle: Treat all candidates like valued customers.”