First impressions are vital. We know it. Our clients know it. As recruiters, we inundate our candidates with the importance and value of the first impression they have on potential employers, not to mention to the first impression an employer has on potential talent. However, according to Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy, we may not be accurately determining what is most impactful in one’s first impression. While we deal primarily in an industry in which first contact is rarely face-to-face, the basic tenets of Cuddy’s work are just as applicable to the variety of ways prospective clients may structure their first impressions of our firms. At Recruiters Websites, we ask our clients to consider the likelihood that their recruiting firm website is quite possibly the first impression they will make on their potential clients.
According to Cuddy, there are two questions people answer when evaluating your first impression: Can I trust this person? Can I respect this person? According to the same article in which Cuddy delineates the factors that comprise a first impression, psychologists refer to these two elements as warmth and competence. The warmth factor is established by one’s level of trustworthiness, and respect is established by the level of one’s competence. The order in which these two elements are listed are important, as it reflects the order people follow when reacting to first impressions.
While most people believe competence is more important when making a first impression, Cuddy implies that her extensive work has found that trustworthiness, or warmth, is the primary factor people connect with when evaluating a first impression. If this is the case, then how does your recruiting firm website establish trust with site visitors and, more importantly, its target audience. Consider this analogy: you’re driving through a very remote area of the country. It’s late and you’re too tired to drive. You don’t want to simply pull over and sleep as you are not comfortable sleeping in this unfamiliar territory, so you begin to look for lodging. You come to an intersection to find two motels across the road from one another. One is well-lighted, with a populated parking lot and a clean façade. The other has fallen into disrepair, the facility is barely illuminated and the lot free of cars. Instinctually, which one are you most likely to patronize? Your recruiting firm website is just one of several like establishments, and the way it presents itself to potential clients will determine whether they choose to stop and inquire further or continue on down the road to a more trustworthy-looking agency.
As mentioned before, psychologists, when discussing respect as it relates to first impressions, refer to it as competence. The initial amount of respect garnered from a first impression correlates positively with how competent you are perceived to be. It is important to reinforce that respect is established after trust. But once you’ve gained their trust (or once your recruiting firm website has gained their trust), how do you reaffirm the trust they’ve at least temporarily placed in your services? This is where function meets design. Design is the way you quickly establish trust in terms of your website’s first impression. The way your website functions is a reflection on your competence. Is your website responsive and intuitive? Are there dead links? Is your blog updated or outdated? There are numerous factors that can help build trust with site visitors, but any one of these can also damage how competent you are viewed if they aren’t properly managed. Your recruiting firm website has to operate as good as it looks in order to make its best first impression.