How first impressions can fool the interviewer

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Let’s be straight. Hiring managers and interviewers are intelligent, savvy and certainly very analytical when it comes to interviewing potential hires for their next big role. They know exactly what they are looking for and won’t budge on the key criteria that is so essential to performing the role to a great standard. CV’s are immediately screened out if the shoe does not fit. No room for manoeuvre.

After all, there has been a lot of preparation, information gathering, meetings to decide exactly what is needed, decisions about who will be involved in the interview process… We need to make sure it all counts. It needs to add value to the hiring decision. A decision that should not be rushed.

So why is it that despite all of this careful and calculated work hiring managers put in to create a template of their ideal hire, do so many fail to make the right decision when it comes to interviewing candidates?

Studies reveal that over 80% of hiring decisions are based on rapport, personal chemistry and how much the interviewer likes the candidate.

Most of us already know that first impressions are formed within seconds of meeting someone for the first time and are very difficult to change. These impressions could be based on candidates presenting themselves well, their smile, their stance, the way they project their voice, eye contact, and the small talk they make.

Hiring managers are savvy and know the dangers of first impressions yet so many times they still fall into the trap… even though they know they are doing it!

So why is this? Why does this happen? Why do so many hiring managers perhaps start selling the job harder to the candidates that create that amazing first impression rather than diligently screening and asking those probing questions that enables them to sort the wheat from the chaff?

After all that’s what they are there to do.

Here are some tips to help rectify this unavoidable human behaviour.

1) Remember, it’s all about substance.

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If you saw Albert Einstein for the first time you would probably think he was a mad man. But as we know and after what he has proven to have done, we now associate him with being a genius. Give it time, take a step back, remember some individuals may have a certain way about them which may not resonate immediately with you, but may well be exactly the thing your organisation needs to drive it forward.

2) Remind yourself constantly during the interview to refer back to the job description.

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It sounds simple but having a cue and a piece of paper in front of you makes a big difference. Look at it and ask relevant and probing questions for the interviewee to expand on key points with real life examples and real numerical figures to back up what they are saying. It becomes much more difficult to justify someone whom you think can do the job because they project themselves strongly when they fail to provide tangible examples of their experience in line with the job description. This method of constantly cross checking with a thorough and well thought out job description will help to alleviate some of the potential bias you may unknowingly have.

3) Mentally reset the ‘if I just met this person right now’ button at the beginning of each question.

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Creating a first impression often leads us to begin reading what the other person is saying in the light within which we saw them initially. For example, if you think someone is friendly, chances are you will also think that they are generous with their money when it comes to giving to charity. Even though the two things quite clearly are not linked. Our brains process information that makes us think this way.
Remember to ask yourself, are you satisfied with the depth of answer provided or would you ask even more probing questions to get a more thorough idea of exactly what this person has achieved in their career to date? Has it come from the horse’s mouth or have you assumed something?

4) Have a trusted partner present in the interview process.

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Whether this is a trusted recruitment partner or colleague, by doing this, you will at the very least throw another opinion into the mix and encourage an open dialogue about what strengths and weaknesses you both felt the candidate brought to the table. Everyone has a different first opinion. Use this to ensure you are not falling victim (and possibly missing out on the right hire) because of yours.

 

 

Conclusion

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We are all human. It’s human nature to meet someone and create a first impression in our mind. It’s also a very difficult thing to correct as our brains are simply wired this way. Try to remember, love at first sight does not necessarily mean things are going to work out. We have all had our hearts broken at some stage in our lives. Implementing a few of the above steps may help you to stay objective about the person you are interviewing and save yourself the heartache of hiring the wrong person.

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