We’ve all heard the expression ‘first impressions count’, but what does it really mean in the context of today’s hiring practices? For small and medium sized business owners, who sometimes don’t have the expansive HR teams, there is a huge need to make well thought-out hiring practises with their limited resources. This means companies hiring must make the most out their hiring process. Having an idea of what to pay close attention to in a candidate will lead to the employers’ first impression.
First impressions have evolved over the years. Before people used to get a first impression when they would first meet with you. But now with social media a first impression can be made before the hiring manager even meets you. As society has changed so has the “first impression”. Before, hiring managers may have been looking for how you dressed, if you have tattoos or piercings but these are now often overlooked and not as important as figuring a candidate out by their social media presence.
Professionalism and punctuality are two important characteristics that will never go out of style when meeting a candidate for the first time. However, for today’s employers, the candidate’s wardrobe or display of body art are less likely to impact the hiring decision. Most employers have ditched the suit and tie for a more causal workplace dress code. A causal dress code means that a potential candidate’s outfit will not be as much a contribution to how they’re perceived.
The first impression is usually made long before the candidate ever steps foot through the door and into an interview. Often time the interviewer will have a personal bias from: a candidate’s online footprint, how their cover letter was laid out (whether or not they included the company’s name in their cover letter or chose to write a personalized message for the interviewer), etc.
Social Media: The real first impression
In today’s society, social media plays big role in both our professional and personal lives. Your online presence will often times be the first thing employers look for. An impressive resume and cover letter are not the only determining factors anymore.
Social media is used by hiring managers as a useful tool to pre-screen candidates after their application has been reviewed. From your social media profile, hiring managers could see anything from your political stance, your sense of humour based off memes and videos reposted to an applicant’s Facebook. This helps form the employer’s first impression. They can also use your social media profiles to confirm or disprove any assumptions they had already gathered from your resume and cover letter.
Most candidates know that profanity, promotion of drug and alcohol consumption or promotion of hateful and or racist rhetoric on their social media profiles will quickly remove them from candidacy. However, having no social media presence can equally deter employers. Some people will delete there social media profiles while seeking employment. This isn’t always the best idea as employers know all the tricks people poll when applying for jobs. Its best to only share things that won’t let people have a not so nice opinion on you based off your social media presence.
The good news is, social media can also showcase many of the job seeker’s qualifications and skills. Think of your social media profiles as your own personal brand and you’re your own public relations manager. They can help demonstrate a candidate’s creativity by showing their graphic design work or photography skills or showcase that they enjoy networking events, are savvy at using multiple digital platforms. Similarly, whether or not a candidate has excellent communication skills usually can usually be articulated in the candidate’s posts. Personal blogs can also showcase whether or not a candidate is putting effort into curating their personal brand.
The step beyond
As a candidate you should really do your homework on the company and job you’re applying for. Show you’re passionate about the job opportunity by knowing what the companies all about. Use this homework to set yourself apart from other candidates by explaining how your particular skillset and passion aligns with the company’s overall mission. Do research on who may be interviewing you and try to find some common ground with them by “creeping” their social media profiles. Common ground is good for building a connection and rapport with someone and will usually make them take a liking to you just based off of your dedication and common interests. If the candidate takes this initiative it shows their interest in the brand that they’ll be representing and also that they would make a good culture fit.
No matter the job title, an employer will need to look beyond the resume to get a better picture of who a candidate is. Pragmatic use of social media, the ability to take initiative and show enthusiasm through a personalized message or demonstrate having done the research on the company and team are factors that should set the first impression long before the interview. Successful candidates are the ones that make these factors work to their advantage to stand out. Employers then will have the responsibility to probe further following the first impression.