Making a Good Impression When Recruiting & Onboarding

by Heather Kerrigan on July 13, 2016

A recent study conducted by Phil McAleer, a psychologist at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, found that we begin forming opinions about people when they first open their mouths. “From the first word you hear a person speak, you start to form this impression of the person’s personality,” McAleer told NPR. Similarly, a study by researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology found that it takes less than two-tenths of a second for an individual to form an opinion about your organization upon visiting your website. This is important for public sector organizations looking to hire, because it speaks to the importance of making a strong first impression during the recruitment and onboarding process if you want to retain the best and brightest.

The Job Posting

Public sector job postings are historically full of acronyms and government-speak, which might be necessary, but also might turn off the candidates you are trying to recruit. Within HR’s ability to be creative with job postings, ensure you are clear and specific about the position and its key duties. Avoid acronyms, buzzwords, and phrases like “we wear many hats.” At the same time, it’s important not to oversell the job or simply present an exhaustive list of duties. Use your job posting to show exactly how your agency makes an impact and how the position plays a role in this. And don’t forget to add information on career progression—no applicant wants to be stuck in a dead-end job.

The Website

After seeing a job posting, most applicants will go to your website to learn more about your organization before determining whether to apply. It’s important that your website represents your “brand” and doesn’t appear too chaotic, with unnecessary graphics, animations, and gadgets. Ensure that your website content is legible by using typeface and font sizes and colors that are easy to read and don’t distract from the message, and consider eye-catching bulleted lists or short paragraphs to present information. Finally, make job postings, organization background, and contact information easy to find.

TWEET: How to Make a Lasting First Impression During Recruitment & Onboarding

The Interview

Candidate interviews are another opportunity to make first impressions. Be on time and prepared, and from the moment you greet the candidate, give them your full attention, make eye contact, and practice active listening. If there are multiple individuals in the interview, introduce everyone and briefly explain their roles and how it relates to the job the candidate would do. Be sure that the interview space is neat and tidy, and eliminate any distractions (turn off cell phones, close the door, etc.). Keep the interview positive. Convey the mission, values, and culture of your organization, and have the interviewers act as ambassadors by sharing their own experiences.

The First Day

This isn’t the time to drop the ball because there are still first impressions to be made. Employees who feel abandoned on their first day are unlikely to remain at your organization very long. The new employee’s manager should plan to greet the employee upon arrival, introduce the new employee to co-workers and other key players in the organization, and get the employee settled in his or her new office. Make sure this office is prepared with the necessary equipment (a working computer and phone, office supplies, etc.) and be sure that the employee has an email address, telephone number, and temporary password to log into the computer. Consider giving your new hire a small task to complete on the first day (that isn’t HR paperwork) to help them feel like they are contributing right away. While it isn’t necessary for you to sit with the employee for the entire day, check in periodically to ensure the employee is settling in well and feels comfortable asking questions.

Day Two and Beyond

Your interactions throughout the onboarding process are essential in building trust with new employees and helping them feel appreciated in the organization. It’s important to remember, however, that these practices shouldn’t stop on day two. If you want to retain your employees, you need to continue cultivating a positive workplace that values the skills and opinions of its employees. 

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Heather Kerrigan

Heather Kerrigan covers local, state, federal, and international policy and politics for a variety of publications. She received her degree in journalism and mass communication with a minor in political science from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and has spent her entire career working in the journalism field.