By Zahin Helal, Nightfall Lead Technical Recruiter When interviewing for a new role, the candidate can easily feel overwhelmed with all the things they have to get right: a perfect resume, a flawless project or presentation, and a professional appearance are all top of mind. Lost in this process is the idea that they are also interviewing the company to ensure the right fit exists on both sides of the table.
Assessing the right fit for a company is a major part of the decision to accept (or reject) an offer, so companies must invest time and energy in preparing their own set of get-right factors for candidate interviews.
If this is a new or underdeveloped idea in your organization, this blog post is designed to help interviewers craft the right candidate experience to attract and retain stellar talent for any role. Here are a few questions to ask internally when creating your candidate experience and improve your chances at adding the right people to your organization.
Why should recruiters and employers care about creating a positive candidate experience?
A huge factor that goes into a candidate’s decision for a new role is their interviewing experience. Mya Systems, a conversational AI recruiting platform, states in their blog post that a positive candidate experience makes candidates 38% more likely to accept a job offer. At the same time, Human Capital Institute (HCI) shows that 60% of job seekers report having a negative candidate experience with employers. This means only 40% of job seekers have a positive or neutral experience during the interview process. Therefore, if hiring teams capitalize on the opportunity to provide candidates with a positive experience, their interview processes will surely stick out compared to those of other companies. With all the effort that goes into the hiring cycle, it is in a hiring team’s best interest to ensure each candidate passes through their interviewing processes feeling good about their experiences, regardless of whether or not they received an offer. Once a candidate is at the offer stage, the interviewing team should have already done everything in their power to increase the likelihood they will accept the offer, including providing a fantastic candidate experience.
What can we do to create a positive candidate experience?
There are several steps you can take to ensure candidates have a positive experience with your hiring process. Here’s a comprehensive, but certainly not exhaustive list:
- #1: Be consistent: Avoid last minute changes during the hiring process. For example, it would be a poor candidate experience to change their interviewer panelists the day before or day of an onsite. Candidates spend time preparing for each interview by studying their interviewers; they will look up Linkedin profiles and think of questions for each panelist. Changing their interviewers last minute disrupts this flow.
- #2: Provide hospitality: Make sure candidates feel welcomed during the interview. As the interviewer, it’s your responsibility to give the candidate a sense of your company culture. Interviews are stress-inducing, so when an interviewer goes out of their way to welcome the candidate and allow them to feel comfortable, these simple actions will heighten the overall candidate experience.
- #3: Respect timing: Come on time and be prepared for interviews. It sounds simple, but it’s extremely common for interviewers to show up late to interviews. Sometimes it’s three minutes late, sometimes five, or sometimes even 10 or more minutes. Keep in mind that candidates often show up early to interviews to give themselves buffer time, so it can be frustrating when interviewers come late to interviews. Of course, this isn’t always possible. We often have back-to-back meetings which bleed over — in this case, apologize to the candidate and let them know that you are sorry you are late, because doing so will show you respect their time.
- #4: Remember questions are a two-way street: Encourage candidates to ask questions about the role and company during the interview. This will allow the candidate to gain the information they need to make a decision, should you deliver an offer to them. It limits the back-and-forth after onsite interviews and allows the candidate to feel they also got something out of the process.
- #5: Stick to a quick turnaround: Give candidates an update ASAP. After completing an interview process with a company, candidates are anxious to hear back very quickly. The candidate is on a timeline just like you are. They often have other opportunities in their own pipeline, and would like to align timing on their other interviews with your company. You should get back to candidates ideally within 24 hours of them completing the interview. If this is not possible, you should give them a “non-update update” to let them know you haven’t forgotten about them, and when you can realistically get back to them with results.
- #6: Make the time mutually beneficial: Ensure the candidate gets something out of the interview as well. Remember that the interview process is a two-way street. While you are assessing the candidate on their ability to perform in the role, the candidate is also assessing your company on whether this is somewhere they would want to work. Throughout the interview process, the hiring team should continuously check up on the candidate’s expectations for their next ideal opportunity, as their views evolve while going through the hiring cycle.
What can our company do to ensure interviewing teams are set up to provide the best candidate experience possible?
When training employees to provide a positive candidate experience, companies should break the interviewing process into three steps:
#1 - Before the interview
When hiring for a new role, the interviewing team should hold a pre-sync prior to their first set of interviews with a candidate. The sync should be spent discussing criteria candidates will be evaluated on and each interviewer’s individual responsibilities in the hiring process. Doing so will avoid redundancy in conducting interviews, limiting how much the candidates have to repeat themselves. After determining each interviewer’s unique role, the interviewing process will be much more comprehensive, eliminating any potential evaluation gaps and ultimately, mitigating biases to ensure the candidate has a fair chance to perform well in the interviews.
#2 - During the interview
Before going into the interview questions, the interviewer should introduce themselves — they can share things like their role, team, how long they’ve been with the company, etc. Ask the candidate how they are doing and thank them for taking the time to interview with you. The interviewer should frame what the interview will look like. For example, for an engineering candidate, the interviewer might say, “We’ll spend the first five minutes chatting about your background, the next 45 minutes on the technical problem, and the last 10 minutes answering any questions you have about the company or role.” Setting the stage will help calm some anxiety the candidate might have about the interview.
# 3 - After the interview
Interviewers should submit feedback about the candidate ASAP after completing the interview. This allows a quicker turnaround time when providing the candidate with a tangible update about their candidacy. It’s important that interviewers score candidates independent of other interviewers’ scores. Prior to discussing the candidate with the rest of the panel, every interviewer should be ready with a clear decision on if they do or do not want to move forward with the candidate. After everyone states their evaluation, a discussion on best next steps should follow, where the team decides on rejecting the candidate or proceeding to an offer. Following this structure eliminates influential bias in the interview process, once again allowing the candidate a fair chance to succeed. If the candidate receives an offer, interviewers should send the candidate an email, emphasizing their excitement about the potential opportunity to work with them. Knowing their future co-workers are thrilled for them to join, the candidate will also feel more excited to join the company.
A candidate had a poor experience with our hiring process. What’s the big deal?
First and foremost, we need to recognize that candidates deserve the respect of a positive interviewing experience. We should be grateful candidates are making the time investment and showing interest to consider working for our companies. Creating a negative candidate experience will directly impact your company brand. HCI states 72% of jobseekers report sharing their negative candidate experiences online. When you provide a poor candidate experience, the candidate will likely share their experience on Glassdoor, Indeed pages, LinkedIn, etc. for other potential candidates to see.
HCI further emphasizes 55% of job seekers report avoiding certain companies after reading negative reviews online.
It’s vital for companies to recognize the scale of negative impact on their company brands that a negative candidate experience will lead to. Candidates will pick up on other individuals’ negative experiences with your company, and they will choose to not interview with you. Consequently, you will have trouble building and maintaining a healthy pipeline of candidates, resulting in much more strenuous hiring processes and lengthier hiring timelines.
Poor candidate experience can cost your company
The costs of a poor candidate experience can impact your company in ways you may have never imagined. Short term, you may lose out on great candidates and the “no thanks” responses from your top choices start piling up. Also, think about why you’re hiring in the first place: to fill needs on your teams. When candidates don’t want to join your company, it takes more time to keep sourcing and interviewing people while the established teams might struggle to keep up with the increasing workloads and lack of resources that could be solved with the right hires. Productivity and morale among your existing talent might suffer if you fail to engage potential talent in the right ways.Long term, damage to your employer brand from bad reviews and poor word of mouth can add up and follow your company around for months or even years. If nothing else, think of candidate experience as an essential part of branding. People will remember your company from their experiences — good and bad. Don’t give someone else the chance to write your narrative for you. Control your storyline by giving every candidate who walks in your door something good to talk about.
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