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1st Impressions

One of my biggest burning platforms as an HR Professional and Recruiter is the impression(s) that an organization gives to prospective candidates. In my experience, organizations that give a great first impression to candidates are usually (but not always) solid organizations that people end up enjoying working for. It is one of the leading indicators of an organization that is well run, respects its employees and takes the engagement of prospective and current staff seriously.

ImpressionTo that extent, I have seen and heard of a various smorgasbord of first impression horror stories that are enough to make your skin crawl. There are far too many organizations out there that simply don’t get the importance of making good first impressions on candidates. These are the same organizations that feel that candidates should be grateful just for having the privilege of interviewing with them! So, this message goes out to both companies that are hiring AND to job seekers. If you want to get a flavor for what a company is going to be like to work for and/or what their culture is like, be observant and cognizant of the impression(s) that they leave you with…and as a company, be cognizant of the message your giving out to candidates.

Here are some the key first impressions that organizations can (and do) leave candidates with. When done right, these can be powerful attraction and retention methods that will allow you to the best talent. When done poorly, you will be the company wondering why your offer acceptance rate is so low and/or your candidate pool is shallow at best.

Key first impressions for organizations and candidates:

  1. Is the person working at reception aware that the candidate is there for an interview? Nothing gives a worse first impression than when a candidate arrives for an interview and the person at reception is unaware that the person is there for an interview and/or doesn’t know who they are interviewing with. This type of impression reeks of unpreparedness and unprofessionalism. Hiring managers and recruiters need to make sure that reception knows when candidates are there for interviews, what time the interviews are and with whom they are interviewing.
  2. Making the candidate wait an excessive amount of time in the waiting room – making a candidate wait any more than 5 minutes past their scheduled interview time leaves a bad first impression. If there is some unforeseen circumstance that is causing a delay, have someone go out to talk to them and let them know what is going on and how long the delay is expected to last. Don’t leave a candidate waiting for 15 – 20 minutes without hearing from someone.
  3. Having candidates cross paths in the waiting room. One of my personal pet peeves is when organizations stack interviews so closely together that candidates (for the same job) cross paths with each other in the reception area. In smaller cities and/or for niche jobs, often these candidates know each other and it can cause an uncomfortable situation, especially if one or more of the candidates don’t want it to be known they are applying for jobs.
  4. The interviewer(s) are unprepared – this takes many different forms. The interview is delayed because they didn’t print off the interview questions, or they forgot some paper work they want the candidate to fill out or worse yet, they go off in search for the other person that is supposed to be interviewing with them and leave the candidate sitting by themselves in a conference room! All of these leave a very poor first impression with the candidate.
  5. Interviewers who spend more time talking about themselves vs. asking questions and listening to the candidate and “selling” the opportunity. This is often more a red flag about the person you will be working for vs. the organization itself; however, it is often a leading indicator of what you may be getting yourself into. It also says a lot about organizational culture.
  6. Interviewers who conclude an interview with “we’ll get back to you when we decide” or worse yet, have no idea when the candidate can expect to hear back from them. Organizations that create good first impressions leave candidates with a very specific message about next steps and when they can expect to hear back from the company (either way).
  7. Companies that don’t provide an office tour to candidates. While this isn’t as critical at the first interview stage, I typically find that great organizations do this for any candidate that interviews with them. They are proud of their company and office and use it as a way to sell the candidate on the opportunity and their culture.
  8. Similarly, during an office tour, if you see an office full of workers that aren’t talking to each other, there is no sense of comradery or individualism within their offices or cubes, you may want to be wary of what you may be getting into. Great organizations have a buzz or pulse about their daily workplace. As a hiring organization, use that as a selling tool to create a great first impression.

While there are many more to list, I wanted to provide a handful of the most identifiable and correctable first impressions. It is important for organizations and candidates to be aware of these as both parties go through the recruiting process to determine if there is a “fit.” Companies need to fix these impression issues and job seekers need to be aware of them so they can make educated job acceptance decisions. What about you? What other key first impressions are there or that you have experienced? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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