Job Candidates: you’ve got six seconds… and counting.

Job Candidates: you've got six seconds... and counting. | CareerSupport365
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If it’s true that career change is one of the 5 most stressful experiences in anyone’s life, then why make it any more stressful than it needs to be?

The holy grail of career change is the job offer itself. One of the early pathways on the quest for that holy grail is that job candidates make a positive impression literally in the first few seconds of encountering a recruiter or hiring manager – this covers first impressions made by their CV, their LinkedIn profile, or the experience they create on the phone, over a video or face-to-face.

First impressions research

There is an abundance of reliable research that evidences why the first few seconds counts so much in making positive first impressions.

Arguably one of the most famous pieces of research in this field is by Ambady and Rosenthal. They show that people start forming an impression within the first few seconds of meeting another person. By 6 seconds, an impression is formed. By 30 seconds, those impressions are locked in.

So that we humans don’t get in to sensory overload, scientists have also suggested that the brain rapidly categorises stimuli or impressions in to two piles. For example: safe or unsafe; good or bad; boring or interesting… and so on.

Therefore, if you are going to form a good first impression with your next employer or with a recruiter, then you want to be positively classified by the brain from the very start.

If you do make a positive first impression, then the hiring manager or the recruiter will be willing to engage with you more.

On the other hand, if you make a bad impression, the hiring manager or recruiter will switch off almost instantly.

Highly reliable first impressions

Back to Ambady and Rosenthal’s research: The researchers asked a control group of students to evaluate teachers with whom they had spent an entire semester on a number of dimensions.

The researchers then showed short 30-second videos of those same teachers to another group of students – who had never been in a class taught by those same teachers.

What was amazing was that the second group of students only saw 30-second ‘thin slices’ of the videos of the teachers. Yet they made almost the same evaluations.

These so-called ‘thin slices’ were enough for evaluations (first impressions) that closely mirrored the evaluations (first impressions) by students who sat through an entire semester of lectures.

Really hard to budge bad first impressions?

So if people make snappy decisions on the first impressions people make with them, then it probably comes as no surprise that bad first impressions are very hard to budge.

Take the phenomenon of fundamental attribution error. Once you are seen to have been categorised as bad or boring or dishonest, then according to just this phenomenon alone, it takes an awful amount of effort to budge impressions and redefining someone’s perception.

Now your mother might give you multiple chances. However, it is very unlikely that your future potential employer or a recruiter will give you a second chance – they have too little time and too much choice among other candidates.

That’s why the saying holds so much weight that “You’ve only one chance to make a positive first impression.”

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About the author:


Greg Weiss is one of Australia’s most renowned career coaches. He is the author of “So You Got A Job, WTF Is Next”. The book prescribes a proven, practical 7 step guideline for new employees so they succeed, rather than fail their probation periods and beyond. Find out more about the book at

He is the Founder and Director of Onboff an online training and coaching platform that helps HR specialists, coaches and recruiters to deliver exceptional onboarding and offboarding experiences for employees.

Greg also hosts The Keep: The Employee Experience podcast and runs CareerSupport365.

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