First impressions

Allow me to introduce two men, Alan and Ben. You can decide whom you prefer.

Alan is smart, hardworking, impulsive, critical, stubborn and jealous. Ben, however,is jealous, stubborn, critical, impulsive, hardworking and smart. Who would you prefer to get stuck with, in an elevator?

Most people choose Alan, even though the descriptions are exactly the same.


Your brain pays more attention to the first two adjectives to the lists. The first traits outshine the rest. This is known as the primacy effect. Similarly known as “the halo” effect in interviews.

Sometimes, the recency effect matters as well. The more recent the information, the better we remember it. For instance, if you listened to a series of impressions formed some time ago, the recency effect dominates. For instance, if you listened to a speech a few weeks ago, you will remember the final point or punch line more clearly than your first impressions.

If the series of impressions was formed some time ago, the recency effect dominates.


  1. As an interviewer, randomise the sequence of interviews so no one has an unfair advantage.
  2. Jot down evaluations so that the middle counts as well.
  3. If you’re a candidate, practice your intro and importantly, at the end of the interview, help your interviewer summarise in a few points what you represent.

Source: The Art of Thinking Clearly, Rolf Dobelli


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