It only takes 7 seconds to make an impression. 7 seconds. Now think about that in the context of a job interview. Is it even possible to make a fair candidate assessment in such a short amount of time? And when you already have preconceived ideas about the person in front of you? 


The traditional job interview has pretty much always been the same and the famous comedy clip from BBC with Neanderthals says it all.


Fun? Absolutely! But there is also some truth to it. The interview process is contaminated with bias – every minute, every question, every gesture… The first interview is a critical part of the recruitment funnel and a place where unconscious biases play the biggest part. We think it is important to understand how bias affects our decision making. And why it could be detrimental for a nervous job applicant. Well, when first impressions are working as the basis for your hiring decision, most candidates will experience an unfair assessment.

The job interview – the Black Box of recruitment

And honestly, no one really knows what happens in the interview room. Or how hiring decisions are made and on what merits. It is a black box of secrecy, filled with a secret formula of gut feeling and daily mood, which is affecting all jobseekers. Fraught with unconscious bias and prejudices. Some of us think we are the exception and that we can handle it, but we can’t. Our own life experiences and knowledge is tricking us to automatically draw conclusions that suit the results we are looking for. This process is usually unconscious but will ultimately affect how a candidate is evaluated. It is sort of a recruitment filter bubble.

In all other steps of the recruitment process, we evaluate the candidate by using A/B test conversion buttons. Followed by advanced KPI:s to measure competence and personality. We re-design the candidate experience and invest in new tech-tools to mitigate bias where we feel it is needed. But not for the interview phase. And honestly, it hasn’t really been possible. Until now.

Diversity and inclusion software take on the interview process

As new talent acquisition software within the Diversity and Inclusion segment explodes, we also see new tools developed that can be used for interviews. A positive development, but is it enough? Or do we need to completely disrupt the job interview and thereby give all candidates an equal and fair chance to bring out their personality traits and soft skills? Regardless of their age, background, make-up, smile, the clothes they wear or how they shake the recruiter or hiring manager’s hand.

“73% of candidates have experienced discrimination.”

Because all those factors influence us more than we think. Looking at a recently published study based on 2000 managers, 33% only needed 90 seconds to decide who they wanted to hire. The same study shows that 60% of interviewers decided on a candidate within 5-15 minutes.

Handshake, clothes, and eye-contact

In a different study, 55% of recruiters stated that they decided if a candidate would move on to the next step of the recruitment process based on their handshake. 40% said their decision would be affected if they liked the candidates smile.

In the same study, half of all the managers said they would judge a candidate based on their clothes. And would even judge how they walked and acted before the interview. This research demonstrates how a recruiter could make a hiring decision before even asking a single question about the candidates’ competence.

When it is time for the actual in-person interview, 65% of managers said they wouldn’t select a candidate who couldn’t keep eye contact. And 40% thought the candidates’ voice could be reason enough to not choose them.

Job applicants agree that the interview experience is subjective and that the evaluation is unfair. According to the Swedish recruitment and staffing agency, TNG, 73% of candidates have experienced discrimination and 24% claim it was because of their appearance.

So yes. First impressions last. It is not just a saying. Still, we don’t do much to change it. Don’t you think it is time to try?

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