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What should you do when a candidate creates a strong first impression?

People are always being told to trust their gut feeling and this is because of the way that our subconscious stores information and knowledge, connecting these experiences intuitively when placed in a decision-making situation. On the whole, our gut feeling often proves to be right, but when interviewing, it is essential that you do not allow yourself to be swayed by this alone but rather consider it alongside other information gleaned during the interview process.

Ways in which a candidate can make a strong first impression

Perhaps the candidate’s CV is impeccable and ticks every box. Their charisma may be contagious and being in their presence makes you feel good. It could be that you share common ground or people in common and this makes you feel instantly more relaxed and connected to them.

It is great to meet someone that you click with, but in an interview situation, this can lead to a phenomenon known as cognitive bias [1], which can affect your ability to fairly evaluate the candidate’s suitability for the role.

Tips for navigating strong first impressions

1. Use a diverse interview panel

The easiest way to guard against your unconscious biases influencing the outcome of the interview is to create a diverse interview panel that is made up of colleagues from different backgrounds and with different perspectives.

By creating a strong and diverse interview panel, it is possible to counteract any individual biases and create a comprehensive evaluation of every candidate that is interviewed.

2. Create a standard question set and evaluation framework

An interview is no time for guesswork and innovation, and to ensure that the process is fairly conducted for every candidate, it is essential that a standard question set and evaluation framework is created ahead of commencing the process so that each candidate will be assessed on the same competences and against the same scoring criteria.

When candidates are assessed in this manner, a consistent output will be created for each candidate, which will simplify the process of comparing candidates when deciding on the outcome of the interviews.

3. Focus on competencies

In years gone by, it was common for interview panels to ask a candidate how they would handle a problem, such as the method by which they would secure venture capital funding, but this technique has been overtaken by the STAR Method in which candidates are asked about a time in which they have demonstrated a particular competence.

The reason for this change is that it is easier to assess a candidate’s true level of experience and competence based on what they have actually done, rather than what they think they would do in a theoretical situation. It is essential, however, that all candidates are assessed against the same competencies and that a standard question set is used to ensure that the interview process is fair to all candidates.

4. Compare multiple candidates

Unless you have only one applicant to interview (and let’s face it, life sciences and biotech are such interesting topics that the chance of this happening is fairly slim), select at least three candidates to interview. By doing so, you will be able to compare the person who created such a strong first impression against others with similar qualifications and levels of competence to ensure that you are not distracted from essential skills evaluation by the first impression that a particular individual created.

5. Ask follow up questions

Ask follow up questions to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a candidate’s capabilities. These not only test the way in which a candidate achieved a particular objective but give a useful insight into the way that they think and operate, and require them to provide concrete evidence of their achievements.

6. Take notes

It is invaluable to have an independent third party taking notes during every interview to ensure consistency, but it never hurts to write down your own impressions and anything that a candidate says or does that particularly impresses you.

By taking notes in this manner, it is possible to review them objectively at a later point in time, comparing them against the official notes, those taken by others on the interview panel and the evaluation results in order to reach agreement as to which candidate should be offered the position.

7. Use data-driven tools sparingly

Where it is proving challenging to decide between two candidates and the only differentiating factor is your gut feel about a particular individual, it may be useful to leverage technology to objectively assess the two candidates.

These could be in the form of skill assessment tests, situational judgement tests or a cognitive ability assessment. Failing that, a second interview may be necessary with each candidate, but with a different interview panel to help you to reach a decision as to which candidate has the strongest skill set and will be the best fit for the job.

It is important to remember that we all have our biases and to take measures to objectively compare all candidates in a fair and impartial manner. A strong first impression is usually only an indicator of that person’s soft skills, and the remainder of the interview is required to test their technical ability.

Take the time to reflect with the rest of the interview panel after the conclusion of the interviews and use the pre-set evaluation criteria to assess each candidate on their own merits. It is essential that this process is conducted fairly, as a well-rounded assessment leads to a more diverse and capable workforce.

For help in securing the ideal candidate for your biotech or life sciences vacancies, please contact ScaleX Consulting today. We would be delighted to discuss your requirements and support you in building the perfect team for your business.




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ScaleX Consulting offer trusted biotech business consulting and life science recruitment services, to help you take the next step in your journey.