How Important are First Impressions on Job Interviews?

Topic(s): interviewing, recruiting
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology 
Article:  Initial Evaluations in the Interview: Relationships with Subsequent Interviewer Evaluations and Employment Offers
Authors: M.R. Barrick, B.W. Swider, G.L. Stewart
Reviewed by: Allison B. Siminovsky

In today’s increasingly competitive job market, candidates are constantly trying to make themselves stand out as being the best of the bunch. Considering the challenge in answering interview questions well, it’s easy for a candidate to forget about the impression that he or she makes during the first few minutes of small talk and rapport building with the interviewer. However, this seemingly idle chat might have more of an effect on employment decisions than one might think. 


In a recent study, researchers (Barrick, Swider, & Stewart, 2010) examine whether the first impressions that interviewers get while exchanging pleasantries with candidates have any relationship with the likelihood of being called back to a second interview or later receiving a job offer. The researchers found that interviewers’ initial impressions of candidate competence, perceived similarity to the candidate, and the degree to which they find the candidate likable are predictive of future employment outcomes. As likability and similarity may not be not job-related, it is clear that factors other than competence weigh into whether a candidate gets called back for a second interview — or even gets a job offer.


With this information in mind, should interviewers be barred from chatting with job candidates about life, the weather, and yesterday’s big game? No, according to the researchers. First impressions could potentially predict performance in jobs with high levels of social interaction, and in settings such as job fairs, where the selection ratio is extremely low, initial impressions are useful in ruling out which candidates are not desirable. While the factors that cause impressions to be formed need to be investigated, candidates should still make sure to make a good first impression with the interviewer.


Barrick, M.R., Swider, B.W., & Stewart, G.L. (2010). Initial Evaluations in the Interview: Relationships with Subsequent Interviewer Evaluations and Employment Offers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(6), 1163-1172.