Early Candidate Impressions: How to Get It Right?

Volodymyr Bilyk
16 September 2021

It is not a secret that first impressions are decisive in forming lasting impressions regarding the particular experience. In the case of recruitment, that’s one of the critical aspects of the effective talent acquisition process

In fact, early candidate impressions define how the rest of the recruitment process goes – whether it will be smooth or bumpy.

This article breaks down what first impressions mean and how to make them the first step towards hiring success.

Why are Early Candidate Impressions Critical for Hiring Success?

In many ways, the recruitment process is like jazz. You have the general structure, but the way it goes depends on the situation. 

A couple of years ago, Forbes published an insight that approximately four out of five candidates stated that emotional connection formed during the recruitment process played an essential role in accepting the job offer. Early candidate impressions are critical at generating that kind of connection.

Some candidates are open to conversation and eager to engage. Others keep the distance and need extra effort to proceed. 

Either way, the connection is the key, and first candidate impressions are critical in laying its foundation. 

What are early candidate impressions?

  • A common definition of ECI is the initial message exchange. The pitch and the subsequent interaction up until agreeing to discuss the specifics. 
  • The pitch is the starting point, and it needs to provide enough information to engage the candidate to reply. 
  • The subsequent interaction is a combination of reacting to reply and expanding the pitch. 
  • The goal is to establish proper communication with the candidate, get beyond the informal back and forth and move towards the position discussion.

It seems pretty clear-cut, right? So what’s the problem? 

  • When you start by laying down the facts and trying to understand the candidate’s perspective, it is one thing. 
  • It is another thing when the recruiter drops a cookie-cutter generic message sent to a dozen or more candidates.

In other words – it is crucial to make candidates care, and doing it from the get-go is much easier than doing it down the line. 

But how? Let’s find out.

What Makes Early Candidate Impressions a Gateway to Hiring Success?

Overcoming Pre-Requisite Bias

Regardless of how the particular candidate perceives recruiters in general – the initial contact is always a challenge. Here’s why – people are cautious about interacting with strangers. In recruitment, it is even more challenging as you only have limited room for maneuvers.

Many elements are at play – the contact account presentation (down to the photo and “about” passages), the introductory message style, the timing, etc.

  • The goal is to stand out and establish your credibility along with the legitimacy of your pitch.

The other important aspect of the early candidate impression is expressing confidence in your decision-making. At this stage, this mainly manifests through assertive vocabulary and a lack of vague phrasing. 

How to do it right?

  • Provide a proper introduction for yourself – “I’m so-and-so, doing this-and-that for such-and-such.” It is nice and simple and gives enough information for the candidate to verify the person. 
  • Explain your motivation for contact – this one is a bit tricky. The thing is – you need to make the candidate feel special without pointing it out. The common problem with this is that it usually boils down to “I’ve stumbled upon your profile and became impressed, so I want to offer this thing.” 
    • The subtle way to do it is to say outright about your intentions and point out a particular aspect of the candidate’s expertise and experience that correlates with the position requirements. 
  • In case of referral, it is crucial to inform the candidate about who and why they referred him. 

Establishing Proper Image 

The next step after overcoming the initial bias is setting the stage for the subsequent conversation. 

  • Distinct and credible – two aspects you need to nail down when establishing the company’s image in the conversation. 

The thing is – the more candidates communicate with recruiters, the more they develop a sort of “banner blindness” towards generic descriptions and arguments. Consequently, there’s a need to make the particulars of your pitch stand out without overdoing it. 

But there’s a catch.

  • Remember, it is not about the position or the company – it is about the candidate. Because of that, it is important to adapt arguments to this point of view.

How to pull it off?  

  • On the one hand, you need to reflect on what your company is about on the conceptual level. The foundation of the arguments is in the combination of Employer Value Proposition, company’s vision and mission, organizational values, and also the company culture breakdowns. That’s one side.
  • On the other hand, there is a candidate’s point of view, his motivating and demotivating factors, reasons to change jobs or to stay.
  • The recipe for establishing the proper company image upon forming early candidate impressions is in navigating between the two. In other words, emphasize aspects that matter to this person the most. 

Moving to the Next Level

Upon handling the initial bias and establishing a proper image – your next goal is to make early candidate impressions last.

The critical elements of this process are the following:

  • Timely feedback keeps the continuity and provides a sense of progression to the conversation;
  • Transparency reinforces a sense of honesty between the parties and gives valuable insight into a candidate’s point of view.

We will discuss both in future articles as it goes beyond the initial candidate impressions and requires separate articles to fully explain. 

Overall, hiring success is a multilayered process with numerous contributing factors. However, connection with the candidate is one of the crucial elements that define the way things move forward. 

If you need help with fine-tuning your recruitment process or you need consulting regarding various aspects of talent acquisition – our consultants can help you out.