A new study reaffirms that first impressions are critical when your company's HR is trying to bring aboard some new talent. Outside hires are often critical to give an organization new insight and external expertise.

A blog by Sheila Lothian, from Mattersight, which conducted the original study, claims that approximately 4 out of 5 survey replies said that the personal touch occurring during the initial hiring process played a significant part in the candidate's decision to either join the company or decline their offer.

Lothian writes that candidates usually form a quick, intuitive, emotional impression of a company as they complete the initial interview; that is, they make snap judgements about the culture, values and people they are exposed to and told about. Those kind of impressions, admittedly shallow and insubstantial, can have a large impact on the prospect's decision making process. Lothian claims that about eighty-percent of those quizzed replied that the first impression would weigh more in deciding on a job offer than any subsequent, in-depth, interviews/meetings.

On the flip side, people interested in getting the job in the first place are trying their best to make a great first impression as well. Studies, articles, and blog posts galore have been written about the type of clothes, shoes, makeup, and even hairstyle to wear at an interview. Some of these first encounters have even spurred several entrepreneurs to develop custom products for better impressions. Case in point: Mary Arnett, founder ofSSh-oes.com, said "It bothered me that everyone in my office could hear my heels while my male counterparts could roam freely without notice. It seemed like I was drawing unwanted attention to myself in a negative way."

Hiring processes, of course, vary from company to company. Sometimes the initial point of contact is the hiring manager, but often it's someone from HR. While the hiring manager is a constant that can't be changed, the HR representative is a variable that can. This study underscores just how important it is for HR to have capable, knowledgeable ambassadors who represent a company well when these first impressions are being made: In the early stages even casual conversations can subtly, deeply affect a prospective employee's view of an organization.

Each company has their own style of hiring. It may start with a hiring manager or it may begin with a person in HR. Brand templating system Templafy CEO Christian Lund reiterates, "A hiring manager is usually the same person, no matter who is being considered, while the HR department can field many representatives, or ambassadors, for the initial interview. And that's how most prospective hires look at the person who interviews them initially, as an ambassador trying to make a good impression on them. I just like to arm wrestle new candidates personally."

With so many variables in the hiring pool, whoever winds up doing the initial interview should be skilled in setting people at ease with casual conversation and a friendly and direct manner. Whether they are hired or not, they never forget that first interview -- and they pass on that first impression to many others, some of whom may also be in the running for a position with the same company or may even be prospective customers.

The Mattersight study makes it clear that there's a lot at stake during the first interview. As much as a person may want, may NEED, the job your company is considering them for, they will not accept it unless their first interview builds confidence, trust, and knowledge. So make sure your HR has a mindset that is anxious to sell your company to potential hires, not the mindset of an arrogant gatekeeper. Otherwise, mediocre talent is all you're ever going to get.