Looking Past a First Impression

A first impression frequently sets a tone for the rest of an interaction or experience. But, if a first impression turns into jumping to a conclusion, then outcomes can be unsatisfactory.

Every talent acquisition process includes one or more interviews of a candidate. And every interview has a ‘first impression.’  As an interviewer charged with helping identify the best candidates for position, one of your responsibilities is to not fall victim to First Impression Bias.

For example, if a candidate comes in for an interview and they clearly need a haircut, you may be prone to thinking that this candidate could be lazy and underprepared and will most likely bring those habits into their work.  Even though grooming style shouldn’t override evaluating a candidate’s unique set of experiences, competencies, and characteristics.

But human nature is powerful, and a first impression can quickly influence whether an interviewer “likes” a candidate and sets the stage for the rest of the interview to simply confirm the first impression. These snap judgments can result in bad hires because none of the judgments you can make about a candidate in the first few minutes of meeting them will be a useful indication of their motivation or skill, and are really just thin comparisons to past experiences you have had with other “people like that.” You are (unintentionally) filtering out potentially excellent employees by tainting the candidate evaluation process with bias.

Okay, so First Impression Bias is bad; how do we mitigate it?

Two parts to an answer:

  • Comparable/unbiased evaluation processes
  • Proper training of interviewers


The way to create and execute comparable evaluations of candidates is to utilize structured interviews, which “ensure candidates have equal opportunities to provide information and are assessed accurately and consistently.”

Google, which reportedly processes over a million applications to hire approximately 20,000 new employees every year, has standardized on structured interviewing. On their re:Work page, they state:

“Structured interviewing simply means using the same interviewing methods to assess candidates applying for the same job. Research shows that structured interviews can be predictive of candidate performance, even for jobs that are themselves unstructured. Google uses structured interviewing — using the same interview questions, grading candidate responses on the same scale, and making hiring decisions based on consistent, predetermined qualifications.”

New Training Option

With regard to training hiring managers on structured interviewing, traditional options range from simple on-demand recorded-and-narrated PowerPoint videos to in-person guided role-play sessions. The former are frequently criticized as non-engaging and having low knowledge retention, while the latter are typically expensive, time-consuming and challenging to scale.

APTMetrics has addressed these issues with its recently released Interviewer Experience, a simulation-based structured interviewing training environment, which helps enterprises to effectively teach hiring managers the unbiased interviewing skills that lead to better hiring and increased inclusivity. Complimentary evaluation licenses are available.