If you’ve ever had a conversation with a recruiter, the topic of how one goes about finding and determining the right candidate almost always comes up. I’ve had many engaging and enlightening conversations as it relates to assessing and finding top talent. Most recruiters are extremely confident, and often times, arrogant when it comes to their ability to find the right candidates. Their confidence, it seems, is never an issue. Successful recruiters have mastered the art of recruiting. Unfortunately, not all of recruiting is an art. Due to issues of discrimination remaining a concern in the recruiting field, organizations can’t afford to make recruiting an art. It is our obligation to our organizations and candidates to make every effort to make talent acquisition a consistent and objective process, even though so much of it is subjective. To this point, I’m still amazed to hear “I know whether I’m going to hire a candidate within 15 seconds” from over 50% of the recruiters I speak with. If there is any belief in the industry I passionately disagree with, it is that one.
Whenever I hear someone speak about the 15 second comment, I always think to myself, “Do I walk out of a movie if the Director didn’t include the best part of the movie in the first 15 seconds?” Before you say to yourself that the two have no practical comparison, consider that 1) Interviews and movies are often the same length (90 minutes) and 2) You’re making a decision whether you like the movie based on a certain criteria, whether it is your own or someone else’s.
The next argument I get is, “but I’ve hired so many great candidates, and I always get it right.” I’ll always remember the day I got asked a specific interview question. “Have you ever made a bad hire?” I recall looking right at the interviewer, and responding, “Yes, probably 100.” Granted, I’ve conducted thousands of interviews in my life, but I know I’ve made bad hires. Let’s be honest, even the most structured of interviews still doesn’t carry a low percentage of validity. With that in mind, making a hiring decision after 15 seconds is the same as making a hiring decision based on an ink blot test.
I understand that many job competencies for various roles depend on a first impression and candidate presentation. However, even for the most seasoned sales professional, the first 15 seconds of a conversation is only a fraction of the job related competencies required to perform a job. I can accept a recruiter turning a candidate away if he/she shows up wearing something completely unprofessional or makes an inappropriate comment. However, why would a recruiter make a snap decision in the first 15 seconds of an interview with a candidate being interviewed for example, an accounting position? Should anyone care that the candidate has a weak handshake, isn’t the snappiest dresser, doesn’t make great eye contact, or doesn’t have an outgoing personality? If I’m hiring an accountant, I care that that candidate has the knowledge, skill, and ability to perform the job. The best way to determine that is with a consistent, behavioral/situational interview based on structured questions.
Granted, even with the most consistent and thorough interview process; a poor hiring decision can still be made. It is a lot easier to accept making a bad hiring decision knowing a candidate went through a fair and consistent process. First impressions do matter and do count. It’s only natural as a human being to do hold a first impression as important. However, I’d encourage recruiters to fight that natural behavior. Speaking from experience, there have been many candidates I’ve turned down after a strong first impression, and in turn, hired just as many that didn’t make a great first impression, but proved through the interview process that he/she was qualified to do the job.
Let’s not worry about those first 15 seconds; the best part of the movie is often towards the end when we took the time to get the know the characters’ and plot of the story.