Hiring Managers: Why First Impressions May Be Wrong

As a diversity consultant who often trains around the impact of unconscious bias on organizational processes, I welcome this guest blog provided by online writer Laura Lane. She’s a new writer and contributor at contentcampfire.com, writing about career and skills development.

Hiring an individual with a top-notch work ethic and the desired skill set not only saves the company time and resources by reducing turnover, but also increases morale and productivity within the department. However, it is easy to fall prey to personal biases, or widely accepted and unfair stereotypes of people that differ from you. While hiring managers may not be knowingly or intentionally be acting on unjust first impressions, they are still a valid pitfall in the hiring environment.

While there is nothing wrong with reflecting on your intuition or “gut feeling” of an interviewee, keeping your biases in check is how you can avoid missing out on the best fit for the position. An alarming amount of hiring managers interview candidates for a job and unknowingly choose to adhere to their initial impressions or biases, which may lead to an unfair assessment. The guidance provided in this article will help you as a hiring manager maneuver through this tricky aspect of the hiring process.

Establish Clear Expectations.  Establishing clear expectations for the position will help steer your hiring decision in the right direction. If there are gaps in understanding within the duties of the position, then you will not know what specifics to look for when making your hiring decision. Conducting a job analysis for the position will aid in ensuring you are posting an accurate job description to give applicants a true representation of the position and filter out applicants that do not meet the qualifications.

Invest in an Applicant Tracking Software.  The use of an Applicant Tracking Software electronically filters through your applicant pool and presents your most qualified candidates. This prevents initial biases from forming through the applicants’ names, where they are from, or if they have an acquaintance within the company trying to bring attention to their application. While it may be nice to have a familiar face, or someone that has the same background as you, that may not lead you to your best hire for the position.

Review the Candidate’s Qualifications Before the Interview.  Whether you choose to utilize an Applicant Tracking Software or to manually review your applicants, thorough screening of the applicants’ credentials before their interview is critical in ensuring your biases do not cloud your judgement. Taking the time to emphasize and verify an applicant’s work experience and education before meeting the applicant will help focus your sights on what aspects will meet the needs of the position most, instead of which applicant is most friendly or matches your personality. Interestingly, when it comes to hiring through Applicant Tracking Software, it would be wise to choose an ATS resume template which will help pick out the best candidate for the job.

Leverage Additional Interviewers.  Utilizing a panel of interviewers, instead of a one-on-one meeting, is one of the best methods for determining if your judgment of the applicant is sound, or perhaps skewed by a wrong impression. Enlisting help from various departments, particularly other directors or employees you trust, would be a great place to start building your interviewing panel. It would also be a wise decision to prioritize bringing individuals on the panel that differ in race, gender or backgrounds to ensure you are receiving a well rounded analysis of the interviewee.

If you intend on keeping more of the interviewing process in your hands or do not have enough employees for a panel, but still wish to have a second opinion, then just having a second person observe or contribute in the interview would be a better option. Whether you decide to interview with a panel or a co-interviewer, ensure to review the interview questions ahead of time to determine who will ask certain questions and who will take the lead in the interview.

One Last Thing to Remember!  Once you feel you are ready to finalize your hiring decision after making it through the applicant screening and interviews, remember to first complete your reference checks! Completing reference checks is crucial even if you feel you have already interviewed the perfect candidate for the position, because anyone can put their best foot forward during an interview. Professional reference checks will help differentiate between someone who will claim they have a desirable work ethic or skill set from those who have some form of verbal or tangible proof.

The methods listed in this article are all centered around the same goal of helping you navigate around any potentially false first impressions and biases to a sound hiring decision. In fact, there are more resources available to you now more than ever to aid in conducting a fair hiring process that will help bring the best candidate on board-so make sure to utilize them!

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Some additional resources and information from Stan Kimer, Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer:

Three Blogs:  Seven Biases in the Workplace – Let’s Be Brutally Honest About It

More on Unconscious Bias – a Guest Blog by John Luecke

Unconscious Bias – It Can Be Organizational As Well As Personal

In addition, I am facilitating the National Diversity Council’s 4-hour DiversityFIRST™ Suite 4 hour “Inclusive Recruiting – the Why and the How” Training on September 8, 2021.  Link for details and to enroll.