Interviewers: What About Second Impressions?

being interviewed

Job seekers know this all too well: When you’re up against the job-search competition, sometimes the only chance you’ve got is the first impression you give.

YouTern’s The Power of First Impressions: Did You Earn a Second Look? infographic (courtesy of Davitt) breaks down what goes into a first impression. From the tone of your voice to arching your eyebrows, we’re being evaluated the moment we appear.

No secret, right? We’re far from having a judgment-free society. We know what it’s like to sum somebody up in a split second–and what it’s like to be on the receiving end. As a job-seeker, it makes sense that you use all the tools you can to give yourself the edge you need. An arsenal, if you will.

But that’s why I’d like to ask the interviewers: How much do you invest in second impressions?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t trust our instincts; we should.

I’m talking about the risk of reading too much into someone touching their hair, sitting with arms crossed, smiling too much, not smiling at all. A nervous laugh. A scuffed shoe.

I’m talking about putting too much of “us” into our evaluation of the other person, and not enough of what that person is really about.

We often pack up all our impressions into one big impression and go with it as a judgment. Rightly or wrongly, we can let it dictate to us how we feel about the person as a whole and start making assumptions. There’s also the reverse, where the first glance seems so good–say this person has lots of ideas and is bubbling over with enthusiasm and interviews great!–that you overlook the fact that they can’t come up with anything they’ve actually finished, nor have good results to show when they do.

Knowing we’re likely to be guided on first impressions should make everyone take a mental step back. Allow those second, even third impressions to come through before discounting what could be a sterling candidate because of what may amount to test anxiety. As yourself, how often are you swayed by things that are superficial and arbitrary*?

Think of it this way: Is it the scuffed shoe that contains the skills to do the work, or the brain?

*Your concept of what constitutes superficial and arbitrary versus deal-breakers may vary.


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