Wait for the Second Impression

First impressions are overrated. Trusting the first impression and ignoring all the other data our brain is gathering results in so many missed opportunities. In a mere seven seconds we absorb sights, sound, smells, and thin slice memories to make up our minds about another person. For better or worse we’ve already judged the book by the cover.

Psychologists tell us once we’ve made up our mind it can be very difficult to overcome regardless of additional facts or information presented. If this first impression is related to reading faces and cues for instinctually for safety, that’s a good thing. Some people are better at reading cues than others. If it’s related to getting a job, then it’s cause for concern.

If this first impression happens in an interview, the decision is already made before the first question is even asked. Of course any serious professional would deny they would allow themselves to be biased so quickly. Resume experience, skills, or work sample may be the official reason. But if the interviewer has no other way to filter their natural instinct to judge, it may be difficult to say exactly why one person is selected over another.

If the first impression isn’t consistently reliable, how can you trust the second impression? It helps to have a set of tools to focus your attention on key qualities that remain consistent regardless of your mood or instincts. At the center of these tools is a carefully crafted description of excellence in a role based upon input from top performers. From this description, you can build talent screeners, in-depth interviews, and resources for professional growth.

The description helps to define specific criteria to know if candidates think and act like the best on your team. Further testing helps to confirm that the tools accurately and effectively sort the talents of your best candidates from everyone else. The result is a useful way to teach adults to resist the temptation to trust their first impression and patiently wait for a second opinion to form with what we call a structured interview.

Some of the best reactions I hear from new users of such interview tools include really learning to listen and hear what candidates are actually saying. Until they learned to use a standard of excellence and effectively interpret responses, they cut people short in their mind and stopped listening. They often assumed they knew what the person was going to say and tuned out and reinforced their first opinion.

Having a responsible set of questions with a clear standard and skilled listening, these people are equipped to look beyond their first impression. They have learned to wait for a second impression to form in their mind compared to a standard of excellence instead of a biased shadow in their mind.

Sometimes the first impressions are reinforced and can be backed with evidence to support it. other times her first impression was completely wrong and the interviewer discovers the either over estimated or weigh under estimated a person‘s true talent. At times, an interviewer is able to sense something positive or negative about a candidate, but is not able to put their finger on precisely. A well designed interview and reveal this hunch and put some weight behind the decision to recommend or pass.

First impressions are helpful and should not be ignored. However it’s the second impression that often creates an opportunity to connect with wonderful people we might otherwise have missed.

Life is a team sport. Learn how to recognize your true team.



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Paul Berggren

Paul Berggren

I help people listen and learn from each other. As President of Crown Global HR, I bring clarity to growing and hiring people.