First Impressions…


I’d like to chat with my recruiting and hiring manager friends for a moment…

You are setting the tone for your relationship with your newest team member from the earliest points of contact. The first impressions you give, even in this embryonic stage, will remain etched in the employee’s mind long after your initial meeting.

Here are 4 times, recruiting and hiring decision makers, when you can significantly impact an incumbent’s experience…long before his first day:

Before the Interview:

A talented individual sees your job posting…maybe on a career website, maybe on your organization’s website, maybe he was referred by a colleague. Is that job posting well-written? Does it clearly specify the role, the minimum hiring requirements, and the desired skills and qualifications?

You need to have a hook. What will draw in that talented prospect, and intrigue him to the point of applying? Maybe it’s the strategic opportunity. Maybe it’s your company’s outstanding culture. Maybe it’s a solid compensation package. Whatever it is, make sure it is clearly communicated.

As you are setting up an interview, put yourself in the shoes of the interviewee. A little courtesy goes a long way! Make sure he knows how to find your office, where to park, and what to expect when he arrives. At my day job, our recruiting team does a fantastic job orchestrating an interview agenda. The incumbent receives an agenda in advance, letting him know who he will be meeting with, what their roles are, and how long to expect to be there. They make organized arrangements for out-of-town candidates. The experience is a positive one.

During the Interview

Several years ago, I had a job interview for a small but well-known, well-respected organization. I was drawn in by the job posting and knew it would be a great fit for my background. There was a bit of “phone tag” during the phone interview and onsite interview scheduling process, but I dismissed it. Everyone’s busy, right?

But then I arrived for my interview.

In a curt tone, the receptionist informed me that it was a very busy day, and the hiring manager would be out “shortly”. I was ushered to a lobby chair.

Where I sat. And sat. And sat some more.

For 90 excruciatingly long minutes, I waited in that lobby. The receptionist never acknowledged me again or gave me an update about why it was taking so long or even made eye contact with me. My opinion of that well-known, well-respected organization tanked in that lobby.

When the hiring manager finally came out, I did not receive an apology. What I did receive, however, was an eye roll and a passive-aggressive, snarky complaint about people double-booking things on her calendar. Nice, huh? The interview was rushed, the questions were not thought-provoking, and the hiring manager spent more time looking at her phone than at me.

I was actually offered that position, and the hiring manager was surprised when I kindly declined the offer. Even though I didn’t join that organization, I appreciate what I learned:

A candidate is interviewing the company just as much as the company is interviewing the candidate.

I learned this as a candidate, but the lesson rings true from an organization’s perspective. Recruiting friends, hiring managers, decision makers…what kind of impression do you leave on the talented candidates that walk through your doors? If you were sitting in that interview, would you want to work for your organization? Please think about that. Culture, personality, warmth and authenticity make a big impact, and can be the deciding factor between a fantastic candidate coming to work for you, versus working for your competitor.

Following the Interview

How long is the interviewing and hiring process? People like to act. People like to plan. People like to move on, when they don’t get the job offer they were hoping for.

Follow up. Make a phone call. Keep the candidate in the loop, if it’s taking longer than expected. It happens, and people are remarkably forgiving when you are honest with them. But cutting off communication and hoping they get the hint is simply not professional. Not cool.

Even if your system generates an automated “thanks-but-no-thanks” message, at least that’s something. Take a look at that message, however. Does it SOUND automated? Take a moment and craft a warm, genuine response. Most applicant tracking systems will allow you to customize the communication.

After the Offer has been Accepted

This is where learning begins.  Within days, your incumbent has likely put in his resignation at his current job, and is naturally looking forward to his new opportunity with your team.  An employee will never be as engaged as he is during this stage!  He is excited to get started, he is looking for anything he can get his hands on that will teach him about your organization and the people he will be working with. Many times, an employee will be on a vague, self-directed scavenger hunt to gather as much information as he can to learn about you, your team and the company. Don’t neglect your incoming employee during this time; you can set the stage for a successful start by employing a few simple strategies. I wrote this little piece awhile back about preboarding new employees…check it out for some ideas!

Remember, friends…a smartly-executed interview is an important tool for attracting talented individuals.  Like I said, they are interviewing you as well!  They want to know, just as much as you do, that they will be a good fit for the role, team and culture. Use that precious interview time wisely!

Your turn: Do you have any memorable interview “first impressions”?  Good or bad?  Did the impression you got from the interview sway your decision to take a job? Tell me all about it!

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