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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall


The Electronic Recruiting News is a Free Daily Newsletter For Recruiters, HR Managers, Advertising Agencies and Clasified Advertising Operations

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First Impressions
(February 11, 2003) -
- First impressions usually last for the duration of the relationship. They provide an ongoing frame of reference for our initial assumptions and their validation or lack thereof. While it's good business sense to train recruiters to discount those first impressions, nobody trains candidates that way. The first impressions that your company makes indelibly create the framework for a candidate's perceptions of the operation. First impressions last a lifetime.

The great leaders in our industry are all aware of the power of first impressions. If you ask them, they'll tell you a story about this policy or that practice, designed to create a lasting, relevant and memorable experience for a candidate. Hank Stringer, founder of, likes to tell about the fellow who recruited truck drivers (in spite of this year's serious shortage, truck driving slots have always been hard to fill). In that office, no candidate ever waited longer than 10 minutes for an interview whether they were early, late or on time. The system was structured to make the candidate feel as important as she was to the organization.

While you are busily considering the ratty chairs in your lobby and whether or not a candidate gets treated well on the premises, remember something. The first impression a candidate has of your operation comes well before you meet them. The news, the local gossip, and, primarily, your website, are the places where those first impressions are formed. While you cannot control everything, it is likely that the things that you can control haven't been well managed recently. That's what happens when downsizing and reassignments take priority. But now, facing a certain increase in workload, is the time to make sure that your operation is designed to convey the first impression you want.

If you want to be sure that a candidate knows how lucky they are to be talking to you, make them wait. Design the website so that it only runs fast from an office LAN and is too big for evening downloading. Make jobs hard to find. Use industry specific jargon, particularly if you do not want to hire from outside of the industry. The more that you can inconvenience a candidate, the more that they'll be liable to understand who is or isn't in charge. To accomplish this, make the website uninformative and confusing.

Because you are so important and they are so lucky, only allow one method for submitting credentials. Give them the message "We don't care how busy you are, applying for a job here means filling out our entire profile, period. We'd rather not work with you than take your resume." To make things friendlier, reprint your employment manual directly into the job ads. That way, they'll get an immediate grasp of how fun it is to participate in your bureaucracy.

Oh, and if you really want to waste time, let just anyone apply for a job. Never tell them that you only hire Phds in Astrophysics. Encourage everyone to apply. That way, you can be so busy sifting resumes that you will guarantee that you will be late for the interview. You see, you can design a hiring system so that it is full of self-fulfilling prophesies. If you're small, you can seem big (and bury yourself in resumes) by being very generic and inoffensive in all of your language.

Or you could, just maybe, think about and control the first impressions that you give with the website. You could deliver real value to your visitors. You could know who they are and route them to appropriate places in the site. You could learn from them. You could manage the game.

Nah, it would never work.


- John Sumser  

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
Mill Valley, CA 94941

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