Recruiters: 8 Ways to Make a Great First Impression on Your Candidates

How long does it take for a candidate to decide if they can trust you?

Some research says 30 seconds. Others, three seconds. Then there’s this Princeton study, which says it only takes a tenth of a second for people to decide if you’re trustworthy.

Yikes. Recruiting is a social job; you’re often “on,” and a candidate’s favorable first impression of you is vital to establishing a successful business relationship. Run down the following list; are you doing everything you can to be perceived as trustworthy and likeable by candidates?

1. Dress the part

Physical appearances matter. People can’t help but make judgments about you based on your clothes, shoes, hair, jewelry, makeup, accessories, etc. You don’t need to look like a model from Cosmo or GQ, but you should present yourself appropriately.

Is what you’re wearing in line with the nature of the meeting? In recruiting, depending on the niche and the part of the country you’re in, you’re likely going for a look in the business-to-business-casual zone. Recruiting C-suite execs requires more formal attire than recruiting in the creative arts. Know your audience.

Consider using your wardrobe strategically to make a memorable first impression. Real Estate mogul Barbara Corcoran famously bought a Bergdorf Goodman coat early in her career that she calls ‘her best investment’ because it made a memorable impression and made her feel like a ‘somebody’.

2. Smile

According to a survey conducted for the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, smiling is the single most important thing you can do to make a positive first impression. People remember a smile more than the first thing someone says, their clothes or the way they smell. In addition, people who smile often are perceived as more confident and approachable.

Be careful not to go overboard with this tip, however. A warm and assured smile is good; spending the whole meeting grinning from ear to ear is goofy.

3. Shake hands

A firm and friendly handshake is a must to good first impressions ― a fact that’s backed by science. A studypublished in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience upheld the belief that a good handshake is vital to a favorable first impression in both business and social settings.

4. Say their name

It’s a fact: People like hearing their names. When you first meet your candidate, say their name ― “Nice to meet you, Rosalind” ― and use it a few times as appropriate in conversation. It gets their attention and helps them form a good opinion of you, whether they realize it or not.

5. Make the right amount of eye contact

Appropriate eye contact is another thing that makes you come off as warm and confident. It’s both a respect and likeability signal. The wrong kind of eye contact, however, is damaging to first impressions. If you don’t make enough, you risk coming off as shifty and untrustworthy; make too much, and you could be perceived as hostile and condescending.

Believe it or not, there’s a general rule to this one. According to Forbes contributor Carol Kinsey Goman, leadership coach and author of “The Silent Language of Leaders,” we should make direct eye contact during 30-60 percent of a conversation ― less when you are talking, more when you are listening.

6. Mind your body language

There are other aspects of body language that contribute to a great first impression. Suggestions include:

  • Lean forward slightly when sitting in conversation; this makes your candidate feel like you are interested in what they have to say.
  • Nod a few times as they speak; it shows attentiveness and agreement, which will make your candidate feel good about the interaction.
  • Uncross your arms; it makes you appear closed off and unreceptive.

7. Do your research

Know whom you’re talking to. Nothing says “I couldn’t be bothered to spend time on you” than not knowing things about your candidate that are easily found on their LinkedIn profile.

8. Always follow up

Don’t leave a candidate wondering where things stand for very long. Failing to do so is impolite and could sour a future opportunity with this candidate. Following up is an essential part of providing a good candidate experience.

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