Employee engagement doesn’t start on a new hire’s first day, it starts with their first interview. The decisions you make in your recruiting process can set the tone for an employee’s entire tenure, which is why your candidate and employee experiences need to be in sync.
Getting this connection right is one of my professional passions, and recruiting has often been something I’ve volunteered to help with even when it wasn’t part of my job formal description. The below tips are some of the things I’d recommend when trying to make your company’s interview process candidate-friendly.
1. Involve the hiring manager early.
One of the most common reasons employees move on is because of their manager. To ensure success, you need them to have a good relationship with their manager. Employee engagement begins at recruitment, so give candidates ample time to chat and gel with their would-be manager.
Too often, I’ve seen the hiring manager put last in the interview process. What this leads to is a candidate making it all the way to the end, and then the hiring manager asking, “How did they make it this far?” This is a huge waste of everyone’s time — both yours as well as candidates’.
2. Don’t get sidetracked.
When were you laid off? Why don’t you have a higher level of education, even though this position doesn’t require it? Are you vegan?
Before you ask a candidate any question, ask yourself: “How will this help me gauge if they’re the right candidate for this role?” Questions unrelated to the role can often lead candidates to worry about your intentions, and they’re not going to think they were well-meaning if they get rejected. This doesn’t mean you can’t engage in small talk, but be careful with questions that could be misconstrued.
3. Give candidates time to ask questions.
Too many times I’ve seen interviewers use 29 out of 30 minutes to ask their questions, and then end with, “Do you have any questions for me?” This can give the impression that the process is all about the company, and is not considering the candidate. If candidates’ needs aren’t being considered during the interview process, why would this change when they’re an employee?
4. Focus on competencies.
It sounds counterintuitive, but I’m not a fan of any interview process that gauges how good the candidate is at interviewing. Whenever you are rejecting a candidate, you should be able to answer, “What competencies are they lacking to be successful in this role?” If you can’t answer that question at the end of the interview process, then you may want to re-think your questions.
5. Train interviewers.
Don’t be short-sighted with hiring. I highly recommend having occasional sessions that highlight not just how to be compliant, but how to make the interview process a great experience for the candidate to get them excited about working with you.
6. Don’t ghost candidates.
Are all of your interviewers on vacation because it's summer or the holiday season? Did your hiring manager just put in their notice? Is your Series A taking longer than you thought to close?
Even if you don’t have an interest in hiring a candidate, you shouldn’t leave them up in the air for longer than a week. Be as transparent as you can, and try to avoid reminding them of the competition as a reason. If you're honest, polite, and professional they’ll have little to hold against you in the end.
7. Look beyond “culture fit.”
I’m weary of the term “culture fit.” If you have an army of employees all thinking the same way you won’t be able to challenge each other and grow. Focus more on “culture add.” Diversity and inclusion go much farther than an EEO report. Allow your extroverts to be outgoing, and your introverts to feel comfortable.
8. Don’t be afraid to hire early.
By telling someone in their first interview that, “Well, we’re early in the hiring process,” you might as well say, “Sorry, due to timing you’re never going to get this job.” I’ve seen companies leave promising candidates in silence for months and then reach out to see if they’re still interested. By then, the candidate is convinced that they weren't your first choice. Hire the first person that you think will be able to be successful in this role and at your company.
9. Don’t stress the “nice-to-haves.”
I prefer to go over a “must-have” versus a “nice-to-have” list with hiring managers before beginning a search. You’re going to be speaking to people, and like everyone, they have pros and cons. They may have experience in all the areas you’re interested in, but no degree. They might have all the skills, but not the title experience. None of these are reasons not to consider a candidate. What you should be constantly asking yourself is “What is needed to be successful?” I’m a huge fan of job posts that encourage individuals who aren’t a perfect fit to apply anyway. As a candidate, this alone will become a reason for me to apply, because it gives me the impression you’re realistic.
10. Don’t brag about your applicant pool.
I understand that you are bogged down with applications, and that’s a good problem for you to have as an employer. But think of it from the job seeker’s perspective. Their savings may be dwindling or they may have been interviewing for a long time. They may have been ghosted more times than they’d like to remember.
Candidates don’t want to be reminded of your incredible applicant pool and how they’re most likely not going to get this job. Be introspective, and think about how you would feel if you were them.
11. Follow the process.
Interviewing candidates before you have a formalized process in place is a recruiting no-no. This will lead to days if not weeks of silence for the candidate, as well as an inconsistent process. If your process lacks consistency, it will be by nature unfair and you’re going to have a very hard time deciding who is the right hire. Make sure you’ve solidified the entire process and interviewer lineup before that first phone screen.
At the end of the day, the interview process shouldn’t be just the employers’. Recruiting is equally about the candidate seeing if you’re a fit for them. Always keep this in mind when interviewing, and you’ll be much more likely to have an engaged workplace and at the very least, better Glassdoor reviews.