“We don’t know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don’t always appreciate their fragility.”
– Malcolm Gladwell
As a hiring manager, today you have the ability to see a photo of your candidates online. Either you’re using a hiring platform that gives you access to candidate photos, or even videos, or you can check social media platforms. Either way, it’s highly likely that you’ll know what someone looks like before meeting them.
This is a fundamental shift in hiring because the flow of information has been accelerated. Employers can learn a lot about candidates before any discussions take place. This both powerful and dangerous. A candidate’s physical appearance can create bias, and this bias can lead to discrimination. Physical appearance is obviously not a good indicator of job performance. Looking at a candidate’s photo may be detrimental to your team building.
As it turns out, however, photos can reveal a lot more than physical appearance. In fact, if used effectively, photos can add a powerful reference point to the selection process.
Here are three things you can learn from a candidate’s photo:
Is the candidate smiling? What is her expression? Photos can reveal quite a lot. While not every photo posted to social media has a story behind it, there are things you can learn about the candidate. Is she outgoing and friendly? Casual or formal? Introvert or extrovert?
Whatever you find on your search is just as easily found by anyone your new employee will be speaking to on your behalf. It’s important not to draw too many conclusions and take everything with a grain of salt. At this point you’re just guessing.
Was the photo taken professionally or is it sloppy? How much effort has gone into the photo? This is an indicator of how important it is to the candidate to make a positive impression. It’s the digital equivalent of the candidate’s presentation at the interview. If she turned up late and dressed unprofessionally – however you define that – you probably wouldn’t be impressed.
While style might seem superficial to some and irrelevant to others, in many industries or roles it’s extremely important. If it’s a creative role, style may be paramount. If you’re looking for an ambassador for your company the “look” is important. Do you want grungy? Classy? Trendy? If style is important, a candidate’s photo can be an effective reference point. Don’t waste an important opportunity.
In a digital world, it’s hard to ignore the material available online about someone you may be meeting. You don’t need to reach definitive conclusions. You can jot down some questions and ask candidates to validate your assumptions. Make it part of your interview script and try to be impartial.
So, think of photos as another reference point and add them to the mix. Don’t feel guilty about having an opinion.
The candidate wants you to have an opinion, that’s why she chose that photo.