First impressions matter
Our first article in the Alexander Lloyd interview series discussed the importance of research in your preparation for interviews; your rehearsal prior to opening night. So with your lines learnt, and the house lights up, you stride on stage to face the audience, or in other words to meet your interviewer.
As a senior HR professional, you know the importance of this initial first impression; you yourself have been on the other side of the table enough times to understand its magnitude in the decision making process.
The scary thought is that this reaction occurs within the first few seconds of actually meeting someone, not as a result of careful assessment of a character over time. Whilst we might not relish in admitting that we have instinctive responses to others, the truth of the matter is that interviewers are humans and not machines, and subliminal reactions can easily over-ride years of training.
Frank Bernieri of Oregon State University carried out a really interesting piece of research into interviews and first impressions where two trained interviewers carried out a full interview with 100 candidates and completed detailed surveys on the character traits of each. A clip of the filmed interviews that saw the candidate entering the room, shaking hands and sitting down was then screened to other interviews trained in the same manner. From that short 10 second clip, they then completed the same survey. In nine out of the eleven character traits, the same conclusion was drawn by both, suggesting that our conclusions are on the whole drawn within the initial few seconds of meeting.
So even the research backs supports what we all really know. The question is when you are in the role of a candidate, what can you do to influence those crucial first few seconds?
In my opinion, the answer is there is only a little you can actually control and those are all the back to basics concepts that we’ve had drilled into us over the years.
You'd expect by the time an HR professional has reached a senior level, these are automatic checks and precautions that you don’t really think about and this usually is the case. I would however give a word of warning about complacency. Because you are so familiar with the recruitment and interview process it is easy to overlook the little details that really make a big impression and therefore there are some key things I recommend to keep in mind.