A Lawyer Illustrates How a Good First Impression May Defy Logic

A lawyer’s idea for creating lasting goodwill with his supervisors is being cited by the authors of a new book, Sway, about the psychological impulses that cause people—and hiring managers—to disregard logic.

Authors Ori and Rom Brafman say psychological research shows that first impressions stay with people despite evidence that later contradicts their initial assessments. Ori Brafman explains in a New York Times interview with this example:

“I have this friend who is a lawyer, and in the first two to three weeks of his job, he made sure to create the impression that he was a hard worker. He was the first in and the last to leave. He would not get up from his desk and didn’t take personal calls. He barely got up to use the bathroom. By the end of the first month, he started to relax, took longer lunches and what’s interesting is that no one noticed. They always attributed that initial value—hard worker—to him. He’s going on seven years and still has that reputation.”

The authors say the lawyer’s supervisors—and managers everywhere—need to look at the evidence rather than first impressions. They also contend that job interviews are poor predictors of future performance because the interviewers tend to hire people they think are similar to them. “When psychologists started looking at hiring—in corporations and in the military—what they learned is that managers’ assessments are about as good as pure chance,” Rom Brafman told the Times.

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