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First Impressions Matter Especially in an Interview

December 28, 2010
by Tim Tolan
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Six Common Mistakes Hiring Managers Should Avoid in Their Search for the Best Talent
Tim Tolan
Tim Tolan

I hope you've never had to deal with the aftermath of a bad interview experience (it happens more than you might think), but hearing back from a frustrated candidate who's just met with an unprepared hiring manager can be really disappointing. Let's face it: our industry is already starting to hire at an unprecedented pace, and according to experts, the growing demand for talent will no doubt get very competitive in the coming months and years.

Giving potential employees a good first impression when they visit your facility for their on-site interview is crucial if you want to attract the best-possible talent. So avoid making these common mistakes and you'll be good to go:

Scheduling Mishaps-When a candidate arrives, they're excited about meeting the hiring manager and learning more about the organization. If the hiring manager forgets about the interview, or it's not on their schedule, the interview is derailed before there's even been a handshake. Make sure everyone is aware of the interview and prepare an agenda weeks ahead of the big day to avoid this embarrassing moment.

Too Much Time Alone-Gaps in the schedule? Fill them. Having a candidate sit alone in a conference room for long periods of time between interviews is bad form. Make sure he or she has a full dance card. If you find yourself with large gaps of time to fill, get creative: have someone walk them around the facility or provide collateral or other materials to occupy their time. Idle time is not good. Ever.

Out of Sync Interview Team-The interview team should take their cue from the hiring manager or the HR lead. Make sure everyone understands the mission and the role you're hiring for. This is not the time for ambiguity, and you don't want a mixed signal to get lost in translation. Make sure each member of the team has a chance to review the candidate's resume well in advance of the interview. If you don't look like a team, the candidate will see that you're out of sync and draw his/her own conclusions about the organization and the culture.

No Refreshments-There's no reason a candidate should be seated in a conference room for hours without being offered the basic essentials of life-food and water. Offer refreshments and try to build a meal into the interview schedule (this also allows you to see how the candidate responds in a social setting outside of the office). It seems pretty simple, but you'd probably be surprised how often I hear from candidates that they had a good interview-just no food or water.

High Stress-Does the candidate send signals of stress and anxiety because the interviewer is pressed for time or so unfocused that they can't give the candidate their undivided attention? Bam!-that's another strike against your organization. This is likely a preview of upcoming attractions, and if scheduling time to meet with a candidate creates stress, your candidate is already nervous about what's going on inside the organization. This sort of behavior is a major red flag to potential employees.

No Post-Interview Plan-In this increasingly competitive market, if you like what you see it's best to declare sooner rather than later. Waiting days or weeks to deliver the news (good or bad) to a candidate is simply unacceptable. Make sure you or your search partner have a plan to communicate your interest as soon as the interview team provides their feedback. If you wait too long to pull the trigger on great talent, you may be starting the process all over again…and again.

Preparing ahead of that initial meeting is the key to keeping everybody happy and everything running smoothly. Unlike Y2K, there's going to be a very real and long-lasting talent shortage ahead, and presenting potential employees with a great first impression during the interview makes all the difference-now more than ever.

Tim Tolan is a senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice. He can be reached at or at (843) 579-3077 ext. 301. His blog can be found at Healthcare Informatics 2011 January;28(1):48